Scotland bins bag tax plans

Plans to follow in the footsteps of Ireland by introducing a tax on plastic bags have been put on the backburner in Scotland after the MSP who proposed them withdrew his Bill.

Mike Pringle, Lib Dem MSP for Edinburgh South, had put forward a Plastic Bag Levy Bill which would see supermarkets and other retailers providing plastic bags charging a small fee for every carrier customers required, in an effort to encourage consumers to use their own bags.

The Bill had found considerable support among other MSPs, though manufacturers of the bags had, unsurprisingly, opposed the moves, saying it would harm the Scottish economy and cost jobs.

But now, despite the fact the Scottish Executive has not passed the Bill, Mr Pringle says he has accomplished what he set out to do and it is now down to the executive to take what steps it feels are required to tackle plastic waste north of the border.

He said major improvements have been made following the debate sparked by the proposed Bill, with IKEA, B&Q, Co-op and Tesco all making commitments to reduce bags across the UK.

Mr Pringle was unavailable for interview but prepared a statement for edie saying: “My Bill has had a huge impact on supermarkets across the UK. It has put it firmly on the supermarkets’ and Executive’s agenda.

“Withdrawing this Bill now puts the ball firmly in the Scottish Executive’s court. I want to see concrete proposals that integrate my Bill into an overall waste minimisation strategy.

“I intend to continue to work to persuade major users of plastic bags to end their use. I want to see a massive decrease in the use of plastic bags in Scotland. If that does not occur I will re-introduce my Bill.

“I want to thank the thousands of people who gave their support throughout the passage of the Bill. The fight to protect our environment continues.”

He did not, however, explain how withdrawing the Bill would benefit the environment.

Ross Finnie, Scottish Environment Minister, claimed a voluntary code asking retailers to sign up for reductions could be just as effective as legislation.

“Prior to this Bill being introduced, there was very little public knowledge of the environmental issues associated with plastic bags,” he said.

“I welcome Mike Pringle’s contribution to raise awareness about the effect our use of plastic and paper bags has among the public – and among retailers in Scotland and across the UK.

“We are committed to waste prevention and we are currently developing an ambitious waste prevention plan for Scotland which will look at the issues around bags. That will published by the end of the year.

“We are also working with DEFRA, WRAP and UK retailers on a code of practice to reduce the number of bags given to consumers. I hope that retailers will agree to ambitious targets to reduce substantially bag use.

“I would strongly urge retailers to sign up to the voluntary code and I’d expect to see progress shortly. If agreement cannot be reached, then legislation may have to be considered.”

A voluntary code in Australia seen plastic bag use fall by 45%.

Sam Bond

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