NICOLA Sturgeon has accused the Tories of "knee-jerk oppositon" to the Scottish Government's Deposit Return Scheme (DRS).

The First Minister pointed out in the Holyrood chamber that the Scottish Conservatives were the party who criticised the government for delaying the launch of the scheme during Covid, but are now calling for it to be paused.

Tory leader Douglas Ross - who had to apologise for swearing during the heated FMQs- pressed the FM on how many businesses should have signed up to the scheme this week after hearing only 664 did so.

He quoted the likes of Innis and Gunn which has said the scheme is "unworkable" as he called for a rethink on the rollout.

READ MORE: Scotland the 'only country not getting what it wants', says SNP MP

But Sturgeon stood her ground as she called out not only the "breathtaking opportunism" of the Tories but also the "blatant disortion" of Scottish Secretary Alister Jack. 

Jack has been accused of misleading the UK Parliament over the DRS after saying the Scottish Government had not applied for an exemption to the UK Internal Markets Act to implement the scheme. 

Sturgeon said: "When a big change is introduced it's understandable there will be concerns about it and I have deep respect for the concerns that have been raised by businesses and government will continue to work with business to address those.

"But frankly the sheer opportunism of some opposition parties who have supported this scheme, previously criticised the government for taking too long to introduce it, to now indulge in knee-jerk opposition - the opportunism of that is breakthtaking. 

"And so too is the blatant distortion of some opposition colleagues - and yes I am talking about Alister Jack in particular."

The DRS is designed to encourage people to recycle drinks containers such as bottles and cans.

It works by businesses charging anyone who buys a drink in a single-use bottle or can a 20p deposit which they will get back if they return it for recycling.

Sturgeon argued the statistic Ross pointed to was not the "most relevant" one and highlighted that the businesses that had registered represented more than 90% of the products on the market.

She added: "The number of companies in the drinks industry inevitably changes over time.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon urges firms to register for Deposit Return Scheme

"At the outset it was estimated there were around 4500 companies. However, significantly less than that will have to register because once groups of companies registering under one registration are identified, the estimated number of individual producers and importers will be below 2000.

"But that’s not actually the most relevant statistic. The most relevant statistic is the share of the market, the percentage of products, that are included. That is over 90% are now included in this scheme.

"We will continue to progress with this scheme that is for the benefit of our environment and we will do that responsibly."

The future of the DRS is currently uncertain. Although it is officially due to launch in August, SNP leadership candidates to replace Sturgeon have insisted it needs to be reworked.

Kate Forbes has pledged to pause the scheme if she gets the top job saying it is an example of "a good idea badly executed".

Ash Regan, meanwhile, has insisted it has "major issues" and is not ready to go live in August. 

Humza Yousaf still backs the initative but has said the priority should be targeting major corporations which harm the environment.

Elsewhere at FMQs, Labour leader Anas Sarwar attacked the SNP leadership contest suggesting it represented a government in "chaos".

He said: "We are in the midst of a cost of living crisis that is hitting people hard, an NHS crisis that is pushing staff to breaking point and putting patients' lives at risk, a wider economic crisis that is leading to business closures across Scotland, made worse by the flawed and chaotic Deposit Return Scheme made by an incomptent government.

"At the same time, the SNP have turned in on themselves more interested in scoring political points against each other.

"At this time of crisis, why is it that all people see is a government divided and in chaos?"

Sturgeon hit back and said she had "lost count" of the number of leadership elections Labour and the Tories had had since she became FM.

She added: "I think people in Scotland will welcome seeing a robust debate about the future of our country, covering all the things Anas Sarwar has just talked about.

"Anas Sarwar talks about the cost of living crisis - one of the things I am proudest of in my time as First Minister is the game-changing Scottish Child Payment. Transformational for families across this country.

"I'm confident that whoever succeeds me as first minister will continue with that level of success."