So, it looks like the Scottish retailing community will finally get what it was hoping for all along: a DRS that’s aligned with the UK and doesn’t include glass. As always with DRS, however, it’s not quite that simple and we’re certainly not out of the woods yet.
The tale of DRS has had more twists and turns than the recent Monaco Grand Prix and there will undoubtedly be a few more before we finally reach the chequered flag. But the UK Government’s confirmation that it would grant a “temporary and limited” exemption from the Internal Market Act means we may be edging towards some sort of clarity, arguably for the first time since we first learned what the letters ‘D-R-S’ stood for all those years ago.
The exemption is “temporary” because it only extends from the launch in Scotland in March 2024 (if it goes ahead) until other planned schemes are in place in the rest of the UK, and it’s “limited” because it doesn’t allow for the inclusion of glass.
For all the vacillations and proclamations and remonstrations and aggravations of Lorna Slater and Co over the last few years, all it took was one brief Saturday morning in Westminster to bring things to a head and what looks like the bones of a conclusion.
First Minister Humza Yousaf quickly took the opportunity to denounce the UK Government’s glass decision as a “democratic outrage” – all perceived interference from London being automatically considered a democratic outrage by the SNP – but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was secretly pleased at the removal of glass. It squares neatly with his business-friendly approach – and there were lots of businesses who wanted glass out – while simultaneously allowing him to howl at the injustice of Westminster “trying to undermine devolution”. A win-win for him, if you like.
Meanwhile Lorna Slater said she would have to look very seriously at the viability of a Scottish DRS without glass and Yousaf has said he doesn’t want to proceed with a glassless scheme after millions were spent on preparing it… but he will look at his options.
As my grandfather used to tell me as a boy: there’s a hard way and an easy way to do everything. It looks to me very much like the Scottish Government has chosen the very, very hard way to find itself back where it was always likely to end up: a UK-aligned scheme without glass.
Antony Begley, Publishing Director, SLR