The Scottish First Minister has accused the UK government of undermining devolution and disrespecting his country’s parliament after London demanded Edinburgh exclude glass from its planned recycling scheme.
The dispute threatens to trigger another constitutional battle between administrations and jeopardizes the viability of a scheme which the Scottish Government says is crucial to achieving its goal of net zero emissions by 2045.
Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s first minister, said the UK government spent most of Friday briefing the media on its decision to drop glass from the scheme before briefing its administration on Friday evening.
“It’s their way or the highway is not respecting decentralization,” he said on Saturday.
A person who was familiar with the discussions at Westminster said it was ‘absurd’ to suggest London was not respecting devolution and insisted the offer made to the Scottish Government was ‘reasonable and pragmatic’. “Ultimately, we want a UK-wide solution that won’t impose unnecessary burdens on businesses or reduce consumer choice.”
The dispute over glass is the latest row to erupt between London and Edinburgh after Rishi Sunak’s government in January blocked a Scottish law aimed at making it easier for trans people to gain legal recognition of their gender, which the Scottish government is challenging in court.
Westminster has also consistently blocked the bid of the pro-independence Scottish National Party for a rerun of a 2014 referendum in which Scots voted 55% to 45% to stay in the UK.
Scotland’s deposit scheme, due to launch next March, aims to improve recycling rates by charging consumers a 20p deposit for single-use beverage containers. They can get the money back by returning empty containers through machines in supermarkets.
Edinburgh’s plan to roll out its scheme before other parts of the UK has raised concerns in London about creating trade barriers between England and Scotland as consumers would be charged different prices for the same product on each side of the border.
The drinks industry has warned that different bottling and labeling rules for Scotland will drive up prices at a time when consumers and businesses are grappling with a cost of living crisis. They added that the program was also poorly designed and impractical.
For the scheme to work, London would have to exclude it from legislation that ensures businesses face the same post-Brexit rules across Britain. Without an exclusion from the UK Home Market Act, the scheme would not be viable as it would not apply to drinks bottled outside Scotland, which account for the majority of sales in the country.
On Saturday, the UK government said it would give its approval to launch the Scottish scheme before the rest of Britain, but asked for changes to ensure it ‘aligns with schemes planned for the rest of Britain’ from the United Kingdom”.
Ministers want the Scottish scheme to exclude glass so that it is in line with that planned for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which is due to launch in 2025. Westminster fears that the inclusion of glass in Scotland creates a permanent trade barrier with the rest. from the United Kingdom.
Lorna Slater, Scotland’s circular economy minister whose Scottish Greens govern with Yousaf’s SNP at Holyrood, said on Saturday that London had shown a “complete disregard for devolution” and that Edinburgh should now “look very seriously” the viability of the program.