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MP warns Brexit could derail Scotland's waste plans

Scotland’s ambitious zero waste plan could be “dragged behind” by Brexit if the nation is forced to adhere to a UK waste directive, an MP has warned. 

Alison Thewliss (pictured), shadow SNP spokesperson for cities and treasury, has called for Scotland to have “full control” over its waste regulations.

She told MPs that under current arrangements, the Scottish Government – and other devolved nations – had flexibility on how they implemented the EU Waste Framework Directive, which in Scotland flows into the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012. This had allowed Scotland to forge its own path with regards to waste.

Speaking in a Commons debate on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill on 4 December, she said: “In Scotland, we have developed a circular economy strategy and made a lot of progress towards the implementation of the EU’s circular economy action plan.

”We have made more progress than the rest of the UK has, and we have made different progress. The directives have given us the flexibility to take a different road. Were the matter to come back to the UK Government, we could not be guaranteed the flexibility we need to make progress with the plans that we have already embarked on.”

Thewliss referred to a recent briefing document on waste disposal and Brexit produced by The Local Government Information Unit.

She said: “The briefing raises specific concerns about the future UK directive, which could well be less ambitious than our plans. We have heard a lot from various Tories in the past about cutting red tape and regulations, but doing so could have a serious impact on the interesting and important issue of waste collection.

”Scotland’s zero waste plan is award winning and ambitious, as we are on climate change. We should have full control over it, and we should not have to drag behind the UK if it does not wish to step forward as quickly as we do.”

But her comment on the ambitious nature of Scotland’s zero waste plan was knocked back by Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham. He said: “…in practice, waste from Scotland is simply being transferred into England, and there is very little enforcement of the so-called zero waste plan.”

Trewliss also added her voice to mounting calls for more clarity from the Government on waste: “There has been no clear detail from the Government about what they mean by an interim period or a temporary period before further powers are released to the Scottish Government. We already know that the market for waste exists, and taking that market away will create uncertainty.

“We need clarity, so that we can make progress on recycling and other things that we have started on. If our ability to work under directives is taken back to the UK Government, who do not share exactly our environmental ambitions or links to European markets, where does that leave Scotland?”

She warned that the uncertainty also extended to local government. “If we do not have the rules or the framework, can we can just throw our waste in the street and the council is no longer obliged to collect it? Those things are underpinned by EU waste directives about the processing and treatment of waste, and without them there is no framework at all.”

Calls for more certainty around waste post-Brexit have also been made recently by the House of Lords’ EU Energy and Environment sub-committee.

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