£5bn Scotch industry needs ‘robust legal protection’

The Scottish Government and the Scotch Whisky Association have urged the UK Government to mount a “robust legal protection” of the £5 billion Scotch whisky industry following Brexit in light of a visit to the US by the UK’s international trade secretary Liam Fox.

The Scottish Government’s economy secretary Keith Brown called for the current EU definition of whisky to be applied into UK Law if the UK leaves the EU.

Brown said: “The US made clear in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership discussions that they would support a relaxation of the definition of whisky, which would open the market up to a number of products which do not currently meet that standard.

“Whisky is a product which is worth around £4 billion to Scotland in exports.

“It is vital that we continue to have robust legal protection of Scotch whisky, which is why I have sought clarification from the UK Government as to whether Scotch whisky featured in discussions during last week’s trade visit by the Secretary of State for International Trade.

“I am also demanding that the current EU regulations are guaranteed post-Brexit.

“After reports this week that the UK Government is contemplating trade deals that that threaten the value and reputation of Scottish produce, once again we can see the confusion which is at the heart of the UK Government’s Brexit position.

“We need to be sure that any future deals work for Scotland and are not threatening the livelihoods of our farmers and producers.

“This is why all four UK Governments should have oversight of the negotiations to ensure, as far as possible, that the right outcomes for everyone are secured.”

The Scotch Whisky Association said the industry currently supports about 40,000, adds about £5 billion to the economy and is “the single biggest net contributor to the UK balance of trade in goods.”

Rosemary Gallagher, Scotch Whisky Association head of communications, said: “To support jobs and growth in the Scotch Whisky industry after Brexit, we are looking for the government to prioritise a range of matters, including robust legal protection of Scotch Whisky in the EU and global markets.

“Regarding the EU whisky definition, all whisky produced or sold in the EU must be, among other things, matured for at least three years.

“We would be opposed to any weakening of the whisky definition as a result of trade negotiations with other countries or through any other means.”

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “Scotch is a UK export success story and we will support the industry so that it continues to thrive and prosper post-Brexit.

“The UK Government has a strong relationship with the Scotch Whisky Association and is working closely with the industry as we aim to secure the best possible deal for the whole of the UK.”