Scotland's controversial deposit-return scheme for bottles and cans could be axed later this month if UK ministers do not give the go-ahead.

That was the message yesterday from Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater.

She said that, if an exemption from Britain's Internal Markets Act was not confirmed soon, then the Scottish Government would have to decide on its future.

The BBC understands the UK is unlikely to reach a decision in this timeframe.

Ms Slater told the Scottish Grocers' Federation that a lack of response could render the scheme "unviable".

The initiative, which is aimed at increasing the number of single-use drinks bottle and cans that are recycled, was originally due to start in August. It was then put back to next March.

Working closely

Ms Slater - the Scottish Green co-leader who has been driving the scheme - said she was still working closely with the UK to make the launch happen.

She said she would know "one way or the other" by the end of the month.

The scheme requires Westminster to grant an exemption to the British-wide Internal Market Act, given its possible implications for business elsewhere in the UK.

It has faced opposition from many firms north of the border.

The initiative would have seen 20p added to the price of a single-use drinks container in Scotland, which will be refunded to people when they return it.

Circularity Scotland, a not-for-profit company established to administer the scheme, said the ongoing uncertainty was causing a crisis for its future.

Growing urgency

Its chief executive David Harris, said: "We have written to the prime minister and first minister to stress the growing urgency around this - and make it clear that many millions of pounds and hundreds of jobs are at risk if there is further delay.

“We now find ourselves caught in a policy vacuum which calls the very future of delivering successful deposit-return schemes in the UK into question."

The Scottish Conservatives accused Ms Slater of "trying to pass the buck" to Westminster.

The UK Government is planning a similar scheme to start in 2025.

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