Buyers of products in plastic and glass bottles and aluminium cans will pay a surcharge, which would be refunded when the containers are returned to any shop.

Zero Waste Scotland, the body that has advised the government on designing and implementing the scheme, estimates that apart from its environmental benefits it could save local authorities up to £6m a year on litter collection.

Similar schemes already operate in Scandinavian countries, and environmental campaigners will now hope that the rest of the UK follows Scotland’s lead.

The Marine Conservation Society was quick to welcome Scotland’s commitment to reducing the plastic waste that threatens the oceans.

“As a founding partner in the ‘Have You Got The Bottle?’ Campaign, we’re absolutely thrilled with today’s announcement,” said MCS Scotland Conservation Officer Catherine Gemmell.

“We are extremely hopeful, having seen the thorough investigation of options for deposit-return schemes done by the Scottish Government to date, that we’ll hear the First Minister give a green light for a full working deposit-return scheme in Scotland.”

An opinion poll has indicated that 78% of the Scottish public approves of such a move, although it has been opposed by some drinks companies, based on implementation costs and opportunities for deposit fraud.

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