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Calm down, England. It's a 5p bag charge, not the apocalypse

Calm down, England. It's a 5p bag charge, not the apocalypse

The headline was alarmist, even by Daily Mail standards.

"Plastic Bags Chaos Looms" screamed the voice of Middle England on Monday morning, adding that shoppers "faced a tangle of red tape" following the introduction of a new 5p charge for plastic carrier bags in supermarkets.

To be fair, the Mail was the newspaper which launched a "Banish the Bags" campaign in 2008, designed "to clean up the country....and the planet."

And other papers, such as The Telegraph ran equally panicky headlines along the lines of: "England has gone into meltdown over the plastic bag crisis".

The Mirror, meanwhile, suggested that check-out workers' safety might be jeopardised by the new charge.

Elsewhere, there were mock-ups of shoppers being arrested by burly security guards for the heinous crime of nicking a free bag.

And comedians and entrepreneurs on both sides of the border responded to the escalating apocalypse with some deft Twitter lines and nifty bargain offers.

So what was your reaction on the day England faced The Bag Bang - which passed with barely a murmur in Scotland just 12 months ago?

Some people seemed genuinely bemused at the new legislation.

Others, whether Scottish or English, provided shafts of laughter and perspective.

Elsewhere, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, made a shocking admission.

And the Twitter parody account, Angry Salmond, fired his tuppeny's worth.

In the midst of all this, it was easy to forget that the carrier bag charge has a serious purpose in helping the environment and reducing the amount of waste material across the country.

Since it was was brought into effect in Scotland, plastic carrier bag use has been slashed by more than 90% in some Scottish stores.

The mandatory levy was implemented by the Scottish Government in a bid to tackle litter and a "throwaway" culture.

And supermarkets have reported a dramatic reduction in the use of the bags since the charge was first applied on October 20, 2014.

All of which helps explain the general response from the Scots to their English neighbours, which equated to the late Michael Winner's message: "Calm down, dears."

Doubtless, the hysteria will be just a temporary phenomenon.

Yet, unlike the new Scottish legislation, the regulations covering English single-use bags is more complex and occasionally close to being incomprehensible.

Cast your eye, for instance, over this: "A bag can contain multiple items and not incur a charge.

"However, if the bag contains other items, then you must charge. For example, you wouldn’t charge for a bag containing an unwrapped blade and unwrapped loose seeds, but adding a box of cornflakes means you’d have to charge."

Confused? You will be!

Therefore, just in case anybody in England fancies a bargain bag, a few "offers" have already materialised.

Perhaps, the last word should go to the man who described this as definitely being a First World problem.

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