Slater admits that only a fraction of beverage companies have signed up with DRS

She also confirmed a new “Gateway Review” on the readiness of the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) and will carefully consider its recommendations.

The review was scheduled to begin in February, six months before DRS goes live on August 16, but will instead take place the week beginning March 13.

The Scottish Tories said the delay was typical of the “farce” surrounding the scheme.

It also emerged that the Scottish Government’s most senior official met with the agencies behind the scheme last Friday to discuss the steps they are taking to implement it.

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However, Secretary of State John-Paul Marks was not concerned enough to demand a written “ministerial directive” urging him to proceed despite problems with the DRS.

Ms Slater, the Circular Economy Secretary, was snubbed by opponents last week after she repeatedly refused to admit a key figure about the DRS, which is adding a 20p refundable deposit on drinks cans and bottles to encourage recycling and the to reduce littering.

She told MSPs that beverage makers, responsible for more than 90 per cent of cans and bottles sold in Scotland, had signed up by a key deadline.

However, she repeatedly refused to say what proportion of growers had agreed to participate, which would have revealed how many small growers had snubbed the DRS.

She said 664 producers signed up, but declined to say the total.

In a letter to Holyrood’s Net Zero committee, Ms Slater said she originally expected up to 4,500 producers to attend, but as groups of related companies would be covered by individual registrations, a better estimate would be “under 2,000”.

She said: “We are therefore very encouraged by the number of companies registered so far.”

But that means only around a third of all drinks manufacturers and importers have agreed to participate, potentially reducing the brands sold in Scotland.

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Hundreds of small brewers and distillers signed a letter this week urging Nicola Sturgeon to pause and reconsider the DRS because of the additional costs and financial risks to them.

The last full gateway review of the DRS in May 2022 concluded that it would not be ready by August of this year as there was still so much to be decided.

However, a subsequent Assurance of Action Plan in October downgraded the alert, in part because the DRS had been tweaked, but said “significant challenges” remained.

It concluded that the go-live date of August 16 was “fixed” and that a further gateway review should be scheduled six months in advance to allow adequate leeway and time for recommendations to be implemented.”

In her letter to the committee, Ms Slater said: “I can confirm that the dates have now been confirmed for a further review to take place in the week beginning March 13, 2023, in line with the review recommendations of the last report , scheduled to take place in February 2023 or near that date.

“The Scottish Government will carefully consider the recommendations from this review and will communicate this and its response to the Committee in due course. I will continue to update Parliament as we move towards the launch of our deposit return scheme in August.”

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In a separate letter to MSPs, Mr Marks said he and other senior officials had met with Circularity Scotland (CSL) and Environment Quango SEPA, the bodies that run the DRS.

He said: “The Government is keen to continue to ensure the system once it is launched and accepts that (as in other countries) it will take time to mainstream and embed DRS in Scotland and eventually across the UK too, given the declared intention of the UK and Welsh governments.

“To support the delivery, SEPA has stated that it will take a pragmatic regulatory approach similar to all other new regulatory requirements.

“Producers who have not yet agreed with CSL that CSL should act on their behalf to fulfill their producer obligations can still enter into agreements with CSL.

“It is important that regular dialogue continues to support further continuous improvement of the system where possible.

“In light of the foregoing, I can confirm that no written authority from the Scottish Ministers (the equivalent of a ministerial directive) has been obtained.”

Tory MSP Maurice Golden said: “This is just another utterly unsatisfactory development in a system mired in farce.

“These reviews were supposed to happen at least six months in advance, but due to the sheer incompetence at the heart of their implementation, even that has been delayed.

“Companies now urgently need to know when this will be completed and released.

“Companies across Scotland and beyond are rubbing their eyes in disbelief at the chaos this scheme has engulfed.

“It’s up to the Scottish Government – and it’s time Ministers pointed the finger and tackled these serious issues comprehensively.” Slater admits that only a fraction of beverage companies have signed up with DRS

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