SNP politician calls for plastic straw ban

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 8 January 2018

The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Kate Forbes, has launched her ‘Final Straw’ campaign today which calls on Scottish and UK Governments to ban plastic straws.

Straws in hand
© N Ewins / Marine Conservation Society

A straw is only used for minutes, yet will remain in the environment and our oceans for hundreds of years to come.

Catherine Gemmell,
MCS Scotland Conservation Officer

MCS Scotland Conservation Officer, Catherine Gemmell, says she’s delighted about the launch because plastic straws are one of the many single-use plastic items that MCS volunteers find in rising in numbers during beach cleans.

“A straw is only used for minutes, yet will remain in the environment and our oceans for hundreds of years to come,” says Catherine.

“MCS is calling on all UK Governments to put in place a levy on other single-use items such as coffee cups, drinks cups, plastic cutlery, plastic bottles, lids and stirrers through our #Stopthe PlasticTide appeal. Money talks and the success of the 5p carrier bag charge has massively reduced the number of single-use bags on beaches by changing people’s habits.”

Kate Forbes, who sits on the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Reform Committee, wants to see a ban on plastic straws, as well as encouraging consumers and businesses to change their drinking habits.

The MSP launched her campaign at the Royal Hotel in Cromarty, one of the first businesses in her constituency to ditch plastic straws in favour of paper biodegradable ones. She says she sees first hand the impact of plastics has on our seas because her constituency stretches from Scotland’s east to west coasts .

“Along our coastline, plastics are choking our seas, damaging the environment and risking the lives of seabirds and sea creatures, says Kate Forbes.

“One of the most common plastic items on the beach are plastic straws. The pub chain Wetherspoons have indicated that they consume 70 million straws a year in the UK and so the figures are huge.

“The ridiculous thing is that most people don’t ask for a straw and they don’t want one, but pubs and restaurants automatically pop it in their glass. That plastic straw could end up in our seas, causing damage to wildlife.”

The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch continued: “Some restaurants and hotels have already done something about this, including the Royal Hotel in Cromarty.

“The owner Jenny Henderson decided to switch to paper straws over Christmas as she was inspired by the primary school pupils in Ullapool who have made Ullapool the first straw-free village in Scotland.

“Any ban has got to be UK-wide, because the sea does not respect country borders and plastic straws washed out to sea in the south of England could easily end up on the Highland coastline.

“Before the Christmas recess, I asked the Scottish Government to look at the issue of plastic straws and the Cabinet Secretary said that the Scottish Government were considering a number of options.

“As part of my campaign I am asking pubs and restaurants to stop handing out straws automatically and to only provide biodegradable alternatives. Chains like Wetherspoons and individual businesses like the Royal Hotel have already done that and I hope others will follow their lead.”

“Our seas should not have to pay the price for a throw-away culture,” says Catherine Gemmell from MCS. “Any move to reduce the amount of single use plastic items being thrown away is good news for our seas and wildlife.

“It was incredible to see school pupils taking the lead on this issue before Christmas with Sunnyside and Ullapool Primary helping Ullapool village go plastic straw free - if Ullapool can go plastic straw free why not the whole of Scotland?”

MCS is currently calling on UK governments to put a charge on single-use plastic throwaway items and demanding that big fast food chains stop giving out millions of plastic cups, stirrers, straws and cutlery but instead replace them with reusable or fully compostable alternatives.

Actions you can take

  1. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2019
  2. Help us stop the plastic tide

Did you know?…

UK Seas provide us with resources from fish to renewable marine energy

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is thought to be 6 times the size of the UK

To date, our beach cleans have removed over 11 million pieces of litter