The Scottish government is to launch a consultation on a charge for plastic bags this week.

As part of the Scottish government’s manifesto commitment to phase out plastic bag use, the three-month consultation will cover all thin gauge disposable carrier bags, regardless of material and suggests a minimum charge of 5p

Environment secretary Richard Lochhead believes that the scheme could raise up to £5m per year for good causes.

If the Scottish plastic bag charge does go ahead, England will be the only part of the UK that gives bags away free of charge.

In September, the prime minister warned retailers that the number of plastic bags handed out needed to be reduced and that he would take further action if they did not. “Retailers need to do better,” said David Cameron. “I know that retailers want to do better too but if they don’t, I will be asking them to explain why not.”

Last week The Independent reported that environment secretary Caroline Spelman wanted a bag tax included in this year’s Budget but the idea was shot down over fears that it would look like the government was adding to consumer costs when families were struggling financially.

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesman said it was still pushing for a levy and was examining this and other options, including an outright ban.

Wales introduced a 5p charge for plastic bags last October and some supermarket chains have already reported a 90% reduction in the number handed out. All money raised by the levy can be donated to a charity of the retailer’s choice. Northern Ireland is set to introduce a 5p levy in April 2013 which will rise to 10p in 2014.