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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 October, 2003, 16:25 GMT
Call for levy on plastic bags
Plastic bag
Mr Pringle says the scheme can be a success
Scotland should introduce a levy on disposable plastic bags in an effort to protect the environment, according to an MSP.

Scottish Liberal Democrat Mike Pringle has called for the levy in an attempt to cut down on waste.

Mr Pringle said the Republic Ireland has introduced a tax which has proved a success and a scheme has also been proposed in the English city of Durham.

Plastic bag usage from shops and stores has been reduced by an estimated 90% in the Republic of Ireland and the tax has raised millions of euros in revenue.

People will have a choice and will be able to decide whether they want to pay it or not
Mike Pringle
Lib Dem MSP
Mr Pringle, who conceded that he has not seen the scheme in action in Ireland, voiced optimism that his member's bill on the proposals would be successful at Holyrood.

Explaining the scheme, he said: "It will be designed to be done through local authorities.

"People will have a choice and will be able to decide whether they want to pay it or not and I suspect that if Ireland is an example then a 90% reduction in plastic bag use there would result in the same possible figures here in Scotland."

The MSP said local authorities would be responsible for implementing the levy and the money would go back to councils for use in environmental projects.

Environment minister

Mr Pringle said there was evidence to suggest support from supermarkets.

He said: "If you look at what most of the supermarkets have said they are very much in agreement.

"In Durham, for example, there are already some trials going on with supermarkets and in a large supermarket in London."

Mr Pringle said party colleague and Environment Minister Ross Finnie was "encouraged" by the bill.

He said he has received support from Lib Dem MSPs and has called for backing from other parties.

'Green idea'

The Scottish Greens said they welcomed Mr Pringle's decision to "pick up on" one of their own manifesto ideas.

They said they were concerned that the bill fell short of what was required to make it work but that they were prepared to work to improve it.

Chris Ballance MSP said: "If the Greens can influence other parties to adopt our policies then that is a good thing.

"We have carried out a great deal of research into this idea and I will be contacting Mr Pringle to see how we can work together to press for cross-party support."

However, Mr Pringle's plans were criticised by the Carrier Bag Consortium, which is made up of manufacturers opposed to a tax.

Spokesman Peter Woodall said: "The people of Scotland should know that the supermarket carrier bag represents less than 1% of litter on the streets and the waste in our landfill sites.

"So reducing their use will make no difference to our litter problem nor will it affect the amount of waste going to landfill."

BBC Scotland's Colin Wight
"We use billions of plastic bags every year"

Mike Pringle, Lib Dem MSP
"It will be designed to be done through local authorities"

Ireland's sticky problem
26 Jul 03  |  Europe
'High price' of carrier bag use
23 Mar 03  |  England
Irish bag tax hailed success
20 Aug 02  |  Europe

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