Today was supposed to be D-day for the UK’s first deposit return scheme (DRS).

As it stands, it looks like the flagship scheme may have been sunk before even making it out of the dock.

In the latest chapter of a staggering saga of delays, government u-turns and industry bust-ups, we witnessed perhaps the strangest twist of all. SNP politicians turned on their own plan and signalled what could be curtains for the scheme in Scotland, if not the whole of the UK.

Speaking in the run up to today’s deadline for producers to sign up – or face a ban on selling in Scotland – each of the candidates looking to replace Nicola Sturgeon as first minister promised to either delay the scheme or scrap it altogether.

So it seems, by stepping down, Sturgeon has unwittingly sounded the death knell of the Scottish government’s pioneering policy.

The most savage blow perhaps came from finance secretary Kate Forbes, who chose a visit to a brewery in the Highlands to state her fears over the “economic carnage”  the scheme could cause.

She wasn’t the only one expressing misgivings. Health secretary Humza Yousaf was busy promising to allow a mass opt-out for smaller producers, while rival Ash Regan said she would either delay DRS or axe it completely.

Meanwhile, the minister in charge of delivery – the Green Party’s Lorna Slater – stunned the industry with her own announcement. Having been left increasingly isolated by her SNP partners, she mooted allowing thousands of smaller producers to have a year’s grace before joining the scheme – just two days before the deadline.

You could almost hear the groans of incredulity from Circularity Scotland, the poor body charged with building a multimillion-pound enterprise from scratch, all while working to a deadline that has long been branded unrealistic by multiple industry sources.

As one source puts it: “The politicians have somehow managed to take a scheme that had huge public support, and strong support across key areas of the industry, and turn it into a complete shitshow. It’s an utter shambles, and who knows where we go from here.”

A third delay to the scheme now looks almost certain, given the inevitable uproar over suggestions to exclude smaller producers – especially in light of the huge investment others have made.

Sadly, the millions spent on store design, reverse vending machines and other preparations will be one deposit the industry is unlikely to ever get back.

But as if the situation in Scotland wasn’t farcical enough, the latest developments also cast doubts over the wider UK rollout, set to take place from October 2025.

Minister for Scotland Alister Jack has loudly declared DRS will force up inflation, threatening to veto the plans in the same way the UK government did for Scottish laws on trans rights in January. It hardly inspires confidence.

Unless, of course, this is all part of a cunning plan. Perhaps enlightened ministers are trying to sabotage the Scottish rollout in the hopes of creating a joined-up, seamless, cross-nation solution?

Actually, that’s too unrealistic even for the crazy world of DRS. Can it.