Delivering Scotland's circular economy - proposed Circular Economy Bill: consultation

This consultation seeks views on our proposals for legislation to develop Scotland’s circular economy. The consultation sets out a number of areas in which we are seeking views on whether to take powers within a new Circular Economy Bill.

1) Strategic Interventions

Setting our circular economy objectives within the wider strategic framework and mainstreaming across policy is vital to meeting our objectives.

Ongoing Activity

Delivering economic transformation requires action across all areas of our economy. That is why we recently published a 10-year National Strategy for Economic Transformation[9]. The Strategy aims – within the powers currently available to us – to ensure Scotland maximises its economic potential to create a more prosperous and fairer economy and society for all, highlighting the opportunity a circular economy can provide.

Our draft National Planning Framework 4[10] was laid before the Scottish Parliament in November 2021, and, once adopted at the end of the consultation process, will help ensure that we make best use of our assets and infrastructure to support emissions reduction. Through this framework, we are updating our planning policies to reflect the opportunities that arise from the shift towards a circular economy. Planning can support development which better reflects the waste hierarchy, prioritising the reduction and reuse of materials, and facilitating the infrastructure we need to make this possible.

Through Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) we provide a range of support to businesses and communities to make the changes we need to see to help deliver these aims. This includes partnering with Social Investment Scotland to deliver the £5m Social Enterprise Net Zero Transition Fund[11] delivery of its Circular Cities and Regions programme[12] and a business support programme[13].

We are changing what and how we buy things too. Public procurement in Scotland has a value of over £13 billion per year and is a significant lever in changing behaviour. Following the previous Circular Economy Bill consultation, we have taken further action to embed circular economy principles in public procurement processes.

In November 2019, we established the National Climate and Procurement Forum with key sectors, to provide leadership and direction to support the climate emergency response, including supporting the circular economy. In early 2021, we issued a policy note[14] which sets out that we expect public bodies to use their public procurement spend to support climate and circular economy ambitions. We continue to promote the Scottish Government's Sustainable Procurement Toolkit[15]. We will also look to identify areas where regulations under section 82A of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 could enhance circular economic opportunities in relation to the procurement of goods, works or services[16].

Proposal 1: Circular economy strategy obligation

Context and Purpose

The Environment Strategy for Scotland[17] creates an overarching framework for Scotland's strategies and plans on the environment and climate change. It sets out a guiding vision for Scotland's environment and our role in tackling the global climate and nature crises. One of the outcomes supporting this vision is that we use and re-use resources wisely and have ended the throwaway culture. Scotland's circular economy and waste policies will play a key role in achieving this.

Making Things Last: a circular economy strategy for Scotland[18] was published in 2016. This integrated elements of the Zero Waste Plan (2010) and Safeguarding Scotland's Resources (2013). It also set out a range of priority areas, namely:

  • Food and drink, and the broader bio-economy.
  • Remanufacture.
  • Construction and the built environment.
  • Energy infrastructure.

We believe there is merit in strengthening this strategic approach by placing a duty on Scottish Ministers to publish or refresh a Circular Economy Strategy every 5 years. This would bring together policies beyond legislation and give a clear indication of priority sectors and direction of travel for businesses and wider stakeholders. This would sit within the framework of Scotland's Environment Strategy, supporting the delivery of its vision and outcomes, and also link to the forthcoming Biodiversity Strategy and Route Map.


A Circular Economy Strategy would also need to meet the requirements outlined in the Waste Framework Directive[19] and The National Waste Management Plan for Scotland Regulations 2007[20]. Such a strategy could include national objectives and detail on plans to:

  • Reduce consumption.
  • Mainstream circular economy principles across sectors, for example through the development of Resource Reduction Plans (which could set out how individual sectors will work to reduce resource use), or similar, for priority sectors.
  • Develop a monitoring and indicator strategy.
  • Develop targets in relation to different aspects of the waste hierarchy and individual sectors (in line with proposal 2 below).
  • Report annually on progress.


1. Do you agree there should be a duty on Scottish Ministers to publish a Circular Economy Strategy every 5 years?

A) Yes
B) No
C) Neither agree nor disagree

2. Do you have any further thoughts on a statutory duty to produce a Circular Economy Strategy?

Proposal 2: Statutory targets – consumption reduction, reuse and recycling


The Scottish Government recognises that sustainable consumption and production are essential for our transition to a low-carbon and green economy, which will meet our obligations to tackle the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis. In our response to Scotland's Climate Assembly and Children's Parliament recommendations in December 2021, we outlined the need to reduce consumption and waste by embracing society-wide resource management and reuse practices[21]. Responses to the previous consultation on proposals for Circular Economy Bill legislation in 2019 also noted that there should be greater ambition in the field of consumption reduction targets.

At a European level, in 2021, the European Parliament called on the European Commission to consider EU targets for 2030 to significantly reduce the EU material and consumption footprints and urged the European Commission to introduce a suite of indicators to measure resource consumption[22]. Subsequent research by ZWS has highlighted that there is currently no consistent approach to measuring consumption in other countries and consumption-based targets are rare[23].

In May 2021, ZWS also published Scotland's first Material Flow Accounts[24]. This is one of a number of potential existing high-level indicators that could be used to measure consumption. These include:

  • The Material Flow Accounts (the flow of resources into, within and out of Scotland);
  • Material footprint (raw materials used per person, tonnes per capita); and
  • Carbon footprint (greenhouse gas emissions on a consumption basis).

Whilst these indicators provide an economy-wide view of material use (or carbon) in Scotland, these indicators may not be the best mechanism to drive consumption reduction in Scotland. This is because they do not track the wider impacts of our consumption, and may not reflect the effects of specific changes in policy due to their high-level nature. For example, as these indicators are weight-based, they can be quite crude; we cannot compare a tonne of sand to a tonne of gold as they have different impacts. In addition, the newness of the material flow account and material footprint may make it challenging to set appropriate targets at this point in time.

Example and Evidence

Developing a 'monitoring framework' would allow for more holistic tracking of Scotland's consumption levels and wider measures of circularity (e.g. reuse, recycling and disposal) whilst ensuring that the wider social, economic and environmental impacts (such as biodiversity and land use impacts) are taken into account. A monitoring framework would sit alongside the Environment Strategy Monitoring Framework[25] and allow us to inform policy choices and prioritise action on areas of consumption that are most damaging in terms of climate change or wider environmental impact, and to design specific targets to tackle these things.

We propose taking powers to set statutory circular economy targets through secondary regulations. We believe that there is merit in developing statutory targets to tackle consumption reduction as well as other aspects of the circular economy, including reuse, to create a focus for action and maintain alignment with the direction of EU policy.


3. Do you think we should take enabling powers to set statutory targets in relation to the circular economy?

A) Yes
B) No
C) Neither agree nor disagree

4. Do you have any comments in relation to proposals to set statutory targets?

Proposal 3: Establishment of circular economy public body


The Circular Economy as a professional sector is one that is growing both in Scotland and internationally, with increasing relevance and importance in all settings.

Delivering a circular economy will require us to further build on partnerships and continue to provide leadership across sectors and across society. This can be achieved in different ways.

Currently, ZWS, a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, exists to lead Scotland to use products and resources responsibly, focusing on where they can have the greatest impact on tackling climate change. In its unique role as Scotland's circular economy expert, ZWS works with citizens, businesses, academics, public sector and community organisations to reimagine the way we live, work and travel and to embrace the environmental, economic, and social benefits of a circular economy.  ZWS is a significant delivery partner for the Scottish Government, in receipt of grant award funding to deliver a range of strategic Circular Economy programmes. In addition, ZWS has also received European Regional Development Funding of approximately £6m per year (£43m since 2015), which has been used to deliver the priorities set out in ZWS's Corporate Plan.

The introduction of a Circular Economy Bill provides an opportunity, if deemed necessary, to establish a public body to help realise our Circular Economy ambitions and to perform relevant statutory functions.

Public bodies play an important role in the delivery of public services in Scotland and are funded to promote, deliver, fund and scrutinise public services, or to provide impartial expert advice to Ministers, the Parliament, the public and other organisations that deliver public services.


In the context of the Circular Economy, and by way of an illustration, a dedicated public body might perform the following statutory duties:

  • Provision of expert advice to Scottish Ministers and leadership in the development of Circular Economy priorities and strategies.
  • Pro-active support in the form of funding and advice to stakeholders in meeting national Circular Economy targets and ambitions, particularly cross-sector stakeholders.
  • Where appropriate, delivery of key Scottish Government initiatives and programmes to progress Circular Economy ambitions nationally.
  • Commissioning and/or production of progressive and leading research that will support and inform the strategic direction of Circular Economy policy in Scotland.

One of the primary advantages of a public body structure relates to governance and the high levels of assurance which public bodies are required to meet, particularly in relation to effective delivery and stewardship of public funds.

A circular economy public body would be accountable to Scottish Ministers and/or the Scottish Parliament and have to meet public sector accountability requirements, such as compliance with the Scottish Public Finance Manual and key public sector legislation including the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, which ensures transparency and access to information held by Scottish public authorities.

Given the need to build on work to date and to deliver the policies and legislative proposals outlined in both this consultation and the Route Map, we would be interested in views on establishing a public body to deliver our circular economy ambitions.

Responses to this consultation will inform our view on the necessity of a public body for the Circular Economy and help to identify the primary functions of any such body.


5. Should a dedicated Circular Economy public body be established?

A) Yes
B) No
C) Neither agree nor disagree

6. Please provide evidence to support your answer to question 5?

7. If a Circular Economy public body were to be established, what statutory functions should it fulfil?



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