Joint call to make deposit scheme work for smaller firms

As a Holyrood committee calls for comments [1] on Scotland’s proposed deposit return system [2], small business leaders and environmentalists have come together to make the case for a scheme which works for smaller firms.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland, the country’s largest direct membership business group, and the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, which launched the Have You Got The Bottle? campaign in 2015, want to see a deposit system that is effective at meeting its environmental objectives; is easy for the public to use; and doesn’t overburden smaller producers and retailers.

Ministers expect industry to establish a system operator to manage deposit return in Scotland. APRS and FSB want Holyrood decision-makers and SEPA (the Scottish Environment Protection Agency) to ensure this new body is required to consider the needs of smaller firms.

The two organisations have today urged the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform to commit to the following:

  1. Appropriate representation for small businesses on the board of any deposit return system operator to be a prerequisite of SEPA approving their operational plan;
  2. Provision at the system operator’s expense of safe and environmentally friendly equipment for retailers to collect and store empty drinks containers, such as secure reusable crates for glass;
  3. Where small retailers apply for and are granted an exemption from collections, the alternative return arrangements for the public in that area should be established by the system operator, not that individual small retailer;
  4. Frequent and predictable collections of empty drinks containers, including options to provide extra ad hoc collections if required (such as after Hogmanay), either over the phone or via an app;
  5. No detriment to small businesses taking part in the deposit system from other parts of the tax system, such as non-domestic rates; and
  6. The proposed flat registration fee for producers to be replaced by a tiered system to avoid disproportionate costs for small Scottish drinks manufacturers.

John Mayhew, Director of APRS, said: “The rules for Scotland’s deposit return system will be finalised over the next few months, and it’s time to get into the detail. We’ve always said that big producers and big retailers will readily be able to make it work for them, but, as so often, it’ll be harder to get the regulations right for small businesses in Scotland.

“We know a lot of small businesses have concerns about how deposits will work for them, so it’s great to be able to work with FSB Scotland to try to identify a small list of key commitments we all believe would make a big difference. It’s in everyone’s interests to build a system that’s as efficient and easy to take part in as possible, and one where small retailers and producers don’t face disproportionate costs for taking part.”

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “This joint list is a simple and practical set of asks for the Scottish Government to consider. They are designed to ensure deposit return works well for some of Scotland’s smallest businesses, from the corner shop to the micro-brewery.

“Our hope is still that there will be a single UK-wide deposit system, which would be better for the environment and the public as well as our members. But in the meantime, as Scotland’s system gets finalised, this is the moment for small producers and retailers to be heard. We need to see decision-makers work harder to make these proposals work for our local economies.”