Whisky boss vows to work with Holyrood on EU

As the Scottish Government focuses on pursuing “all available options” to keep Scotland in the EU, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) chief executive David Frost has vowed to collaborate with Holyrood to protect local economies sustained by the drinks industry and its exports.

A third of all UK whisky is consumed in mainland Europe, and Scotch accounts for almost a quarter of all British food and drink exports.

The SWA had warned before the EU referendum that more than £1 billion of Scotch exports could be at risk for an industry that supports 40,000 jobs if the UK voted to leave the EU.

It had warned that outside of the EU, the UK’s Scotch producers “could face bureaucratic barriers when trading with Europe.”

Frost has met Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary Rural Economy and Connectivity, to discuss the current challenges.

“Such collaboration between industry and government is particularly important during such a time of change brought about by the outcome of the EU referendum,” said the SWA in a statement.

“Scotch Whisky production plays a vital role in rural communities across Scotland.

“Distilleries are a source of jobs in areas that might otherwise find it hard to sustain them, and are strongly aligned with wider tourism activities in rural economies.

“More than 7,000 workers in the Scotch Whisky industry are employed in rural communities.

“And Scotch Whisky is a key competitive strength for the Scottish economy and in particular its exports.”

The SWA said more can always be done to support the rural economy and boost the food and drink industry — so close collaboration with government is necessary.

Ewing said: “We remain focused on pursuing all available options to keep Scotland in the EU, and that means working closely with vital industries like the whisky sector to ensure that we seek to protect their and Scotland’s interests.

“We are looking to develop a regular dialogue with the industry to find solutions and answers as we navigate this uncharted territory.”

Frost said: “We had a very worthwhile meeting with Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing.

“I welcome the Scottish Government’s intention to consult consistently with the Scotch Whisky industry, so that we can both work to support the wider economy and sustain jobs during this uncertain period.

“Such dialogue is particularly important as Brexit negotiations begin, so I am glad we agreed to meet on a regular basis.”