Early Scots plastic bag charge was shelved over 'waste' fears

Plans to introduce a levy on plastic bags in Scotland almost a decade before it became law were shelved amid concerns it could lead to an increase in waste, newly released papers have revealed.

The plastic bag levy was introduced in 2014
The plastic bag levy was introduced in 2014

And although Scottish cabinet ministers were told in 2005 that the move would bring environmental benefits, concerns were raised that it would be a struggle to convince businesses of the case for change.

Scotland later became the first part of the UK to introduce a mandatory plastic bag charge in all shops and supermarkets of 5p in 2014, with the rest of the four home nations following suit in subsequent years.

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But the then Liberal Democrat environment minister Ross Finnie told a meeting of the Scottish cabinet in 2005 that a study had been carried out into the proposed levy.

"The study suggested that a levy could lead to marginal environmental benefits in five out of eight indicators but that the amount of waste it produced in Scotland could increase if people switched to using paper bags," the minutes from cabinet papers of August 31 state.

"On this basis it would be challenging to convince businesses of the merits of the proposed levy."

The levy was subsequently introduced by the SNP administration in October 2014 after concerns escalated about the impact of plastic on the environment.

At the time, Scots were using more than 800 million bags every year, more than any other area of the UK. After the ban, usage plummeted by 80% within a year and there plans to double the levy to ten pence.

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