Ambassador Betts is new Scotch Whisky CEO

Karen Betts

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) — the influential trade body for the £5 billion Scotch industry — said it appointed diplomat Karen Betts as its new chief executive.

Betts joins the SWA after a 16 year career in the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), most recently as British Ambassador to Morocco.

Betts succeeds David Frost, who stepped down in November 2016 to take up a new role as foreign affairs special adviser to UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

SWA chairman Pierre Pringuet said: “We are delighted that Karen will be joining us and bringing fresh leadership to a talented SWA team as it continues to represent its members’ interests effectively around the world.

“Her wide international experience will be particularly valuable as we work with government to grow the Scotch Whisky industry globally and make a success of the UK’s exit from the EU.”

Betts said: “I am thrilled to have been appointed as CEO of the Scotch Whisky Association to represent one of Scotland’s most important industries, at home and overseas.

“It’s an exciting and challenging time for the Scotch Whisky industry, and I am looking forward immensely to helping ensure its success into the future.

“I am also delighted to be moving back to Edinburgh with my family.”

The Scotch Whisky Association is currently calling for a 2% spirits excise duty cut in the next UK Budget and recently revealed new research that showed Scotch creates £5 billion annually for the UK economy, supports more than 40,000 jobs and is the largest net contributor to the UK’s balance of trade in goods.

However, the price of an average bottle of Scotch Whisky in the UK is made up of 77% in tax.

The Scotch industry pays almost £1.3 billion in salaries in Scotland.

Betts becomes the eighth head and the first female chief executive of the SWA in its 105 year history.

Betts held a variety of posts with the FCO in London and overseas.

These included Counsellor to the British Embassy in Washington and roles at the UK’s Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels and the British Embassy in Baghdad.

She also served in the UK Cabinet Office and the Joint Intelligence Committee.

Prior to joining the FCO, she worked as a lawyer for Clifford Chance in London and Hong Kong.

She studied law at the College of Law in Guildford and history at St Andrews University.