Gavin Hewitt's 10 years at the SWA

27 Nov 2013

I step down as SWA chief executive at the end of the year. The last ten years have been some of the most challenging and exciting of my working career, which dates back to 1967. I know the Association will be in good hands when David Frost takes over from me.

I am very aware that I remain a comparative novice in the Scotch Whisky industry. As I travel around Scotland and abroad, I am struck by the years of commitment, passion and devotion of those working in the industry. It seems a truism that once caught by the Scotch Whisky industry, you can never leave it.

What have I done? I think the Association now thinks more commercially in how it seeks to help our member companies. The highlight, however, was The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009. They were transformational, but they took six years hard work with governments north and south of the border. The Regulations set out for the industry, SWA members and non-members alike, the production and presentational rules for every bottle of Scotch. The consumer now is told clearly the category of Scotch, whether a Single Malt, Blended Malt or Blended Scotch Whisky. As required for all European Union Geographical Indication spirit drinks, we will have a verification regime in place by the turn of the year to ensure that all Scotch is what it says on the label.

Market access in Europe and the rest of the world has also been top of my agenda. The EU inside the single market and globally has been good for Scotch. Exports have grown in value by almost 100% since 2002. I cannot claim that it was all my own work, but the industry relies on the Association to create the market openings and secure a level playing field for all. And our export success is second to none in Scotland.

Alcohol and health has risen up the agenda; I spend a great deal of time addressing how the industry might better contribute to practical work to reduce alcohol harm. We have to do it in partnership; it's not helpful when your own government gets the wrong end of the stick and risks undermining our success in foreign markets.

I am very proud of our environment strategy. It remains one of the very few industry strategies for addressing sustainability and climate change. Our ability to weave a strategy for the whole sector and get industry buy-in is already the envy of many other manufacturing sectors.

It has been a great ten years. I don't plan to disappear. But I want to say thank you to the SWA staff and everyone in the industry with whom I have worked. It has been an enormous privilege.

Gavin Hewitt
SWA Chief Executive