Scottish government plans charge for plastic bags

plastic carrier bags It is hoped the charge will reduce carrier bag use

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The Scottish government has confirmed it will introduce a 5p levy on plastic bags from October 2014.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said the charge should reduce bag use in Scotland and raise £5m for good causes each year.

There are already charges on carrier bags in Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The business organisation CBI Scotland said the move would mean "costly additional red tape".

Mr Lochhead said: "Discarded carrier bags highlight our throwaway society. We use more carrier bags per head in Scotland than any other part of the UK and this is unsustainable.

"Carrier bags are a highly visible aspect of litter and we are taking decisive action to decrease their number. By reducing the amount being carelessly discarded we can cut litter and its impact on our environment and economy.

"A small charge should also encourage us all to stop and think about what we discard and what can be re-used."

Start Quote

If we focus solely on plastic bags we are in danger of being distracted from much larger and more important issues around waste”

End Quote Fiona Moriarty Scottish Retail Consortium

The measure will not raise revenue for the government. Instead, the money raised will go to good causes.

Mr Lochhead added: "This charge is not a tax but will see retailers donating the proceeds to charity - this could be up to £5m per year after retailers have covered their costs."

Iain Gulland, the director of Zero Waste Scotland, said: "We can all reduce the impact of carrier bags by making sure that when we must take one, we re-use it over and over again as many times as possible and then recycle it at the end of its life."

Retailers have expresses their concern about the impact of the charge.

A CBI Scotland spokesman said: "Modest economic growth coupled with a continuing shift to internet shopping is making conditions challenging for the high street, which is already feeling the ill-effects of the Scottish government's £95m retail rates surcharge and its £36m rates levy on empty shops and other premises.

Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead made the announcement at a store in Edinburgh

"The plans for costly additional red tape in the form of an environmental levy on carrier bags, after significant success recently in reducing the use of plastic bags by voluntary means, will only make a difficult situation even tougher for retail businesses."

There was a cautious response from the Scottish Retail Consortium, which claimed carrier bag use has already fallen by 40%.

Director Fiona Moriarty said: "The Scottish government has decided that it wants further and faster reductions and the only way it can achieve this is through legislation.

"However, it is our view that if we focus solely on plastic bags we are in danger of being distracted from much larger and more important issues around waste.

"The SRC will be working with the Scottish government to ensure that the legislation is proportionate and as far as possible consistent across the UK to avoid confusion for customers and businesses."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Never understood why we have never introduced the American style thick brown paper bags. Ok they may not be strong at plastic bags but they are fully recyclable and far less damaging to the environment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Scotland used 750,000,000 plastic bags last year ? any back up figures for these numbers or just the usual of the wall nonsense to make a story? £37,500.000 revenue.....get real and do the maths..a population of barely 5 million of which only less than 5-10%% actually do real shopping with or without bags.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    We get everything for free in Scotland anyway so it's about time we paid for something. Canada has been doing this for over 10 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.


    "A plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade."

    As I actually keep and reuse my carrier bags, I can tell you that it only takes a year or so to degrade when it's sitting in my hall cupboard! On that basis, I'd be inclined to question the rest of the facts you presented too...

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    BBC R2 news just said Scotland used 750,000,000 plastic bags last year. At 5p per bag that would be £37,500,000.
    £5million to go to good causes. That's less than 1p out of the 5p charge Where does the rest of the money go?
    A shop that provides them for free just now (by absorbing the cost themselves) will get a windfall of 4p from every bag.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    This is a total pain. Bags are needed to carry stuff. Sure thy're great to reuse if you drive to the supermarket as a special trip (not exactly green!), but for those of us whose life isn't like this is just a tax. And in terms of waste let alone environmental issues as a whole this is a drop in the ocean. Typical out-of touch politicians. Not impressed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    Pah..Charity Tax.....Fact: Plastic bags are more environmentally friendly than paper ones and certainly more environmentally friendly than none at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    Great to have all these contributors on this open comments, I hope and trust BBC Scotland has the courage to open their site to more important issues/discussions that concern the people of Scotland and reclaim their status as an impartial institution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    We've had them for at least 2 years in Wales. Not a problem WHATSOEVER.

    The world still goes around. Supermarkets still sell food....

    Start carrying a bag with you now, so you nget used to it when it comes in.

    When I go to England, it feels really strange that they GIVE you bags.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    By all means introduce charging for plastic bags. But then it should be that all packaging charges need to be more excessive to encourage recycling/re-use and not dumping it as soon as it becomes empty. This will pay for an army of litter inspectors who should also have the power to heavily fine the scumbags that drop their litter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    At last something the Govt are doing that I can actually agree with.
    Although I would probably raise the price beyond the 5p level to really discourage the uptake of plastic bags.
    We have used our own bags and "bags" for life for quite a few years now it's not rocket science if you are going to purchase goods you need bags so remember to take them with you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Can you please explain what political propaganda is bloated in respect to a levy on environmentally unfriendly plastic bags? My take is that you were referring to the FM of the incumbent Sottish Government, hence my objection to your post. I hope I am incorrect with my interpretation but that's how it came across.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    I thought the charge already existed! Every day's a school day!

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    8 billion plastic bags were given out in 2011 in the UK.

    Thousands of marine animals and more than 1 million birds die each year as a result of plastic pollution.

    Plastic bags not only litter our landscape, they block drains and pipes contributing to critical conditions.

    A plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade.

    Scotland will join Wales & N Ireland, a positive step in the right direction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    informed glasgow

    What is totalitarian about any of the measures taken (smoking was Labour btw). It would be totalitarian if the same sex marriage bill said you had to marry someone of the same sex. Simply allowing people that want to is called tolerant not totalitarian.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Why all the doubt about the money accumulated for the purchase of these unnecessary plastic bags going to good causes? It is nothing in comparison to the UK tax avoidance used by the premier global companies which we all accept and support indirectly unquestionably. For goodness sake wake up and smell the "coffee"

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    107 Thoughtful
    why not just tell all shops they must only use biodegradable bags?

    A local supermarket - now closed - used degradable bags. If you tried to use them for anything else and didn't watch them carefully you ended up with plastic confetti all over the place - Yuk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Whilst I agree that we should really take our own bag, it is annoying that you will be forced to pay for this. It is yet another SNP initiative that chips away at our freedoms..Think smoking / ranting at football matches/ gay marriage/ mimimum alcohol prices etc..All commendable but none of us have been asked..totalitarian SNP government...?? and if we go independant, what next???

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    @109 no intention to offend, no bias, I dislike all of them. it is the propoganda that is bloated

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Shame on those that indiscriminately disposed of them.
    Guess I'll be buying waste bin bags and waste cat litter bags from now on. Still non-biodegradable and still going to landfill.
    It's a stealth tax/enforced charity donation with no option of which charity.
    If only the Government got as tough on the supermarkets and manufacturers unwanted and unnecessary multiple packaging around actual items.


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