John Swinney MSP and Karen Betts

Scotch Whisky industry looks for continued growth through Brexit

03 May 2018

The Scotch Whisky industry's recent growth must be maintained beyond Brexit, delegates at the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) conference heard today.

The annual gathering in Edinburgh heard speeches from SWA Chief Executive Karen Betts as well as Deputy First Minister John Swinney. Scotch Whisky is the UK's largest food and drink export, accounting for 20% of all food and drink exports.

Last year, 39 bottles per second were shipped overseas totalling an export value of £4.37bn.

Speaking after the Conference, SWA Chief Executive Karen Betts said: "Scotch Whisky is a world-class product with world-wide reach.

"Scotch Whisky is doing well, with exports growing and new investment going into all aspects of the industry. In the twelve months since our last conference, 7 new Scotch Whisky distilleries have opened and, over the last 5 years, more than half a billion pounds has been invested in the industry, in everything from distilling to tourism. This is great news for growth in our sector and for the jobs and communities that the industry supports.

"But Brexit poses challenges for the industry, and is likely to be disruptive. We want to continue to be able to export Scotch Whisky to Europe and the rest of the world with a minimum additional cost and complexity, and so our industry can emerge from Brexit in growth.

"That means zero tariffs, a minimum of regulatory divergence and legal protection in the EU. But it also means continued access to the benefits of EU trade deals with third countries, including South Korea and Colombia. We calculate the loss of these trade benefits would cost the industry over £50 million annually in tariffs alone.

"We continue to urge the UK government to swiftly put in place agreements with those third countries so that Scotch can continue to flourish there post-Brexit. And to work on advantageous trade deals with our growth markets, such as India, China and Brazil to ensure the sector continues to prosper."

Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP said: "The Scottish Government welcomes the hard work of the industry to deliver an excellent performance in 2017 when Scotch exports were valued at approximately £4.36 billion. The value of Scotch whisky exports from the UK was up 9% from 2016 and Scotch Whisky accounted for around 20 percent of all UK food and drink exports.

"Rightly there is a growing confidence within the sector, with investments being made by established distilleries, as well as a high number of new sites being built across the country. This is great news for Scotland and as I go around the country, what strikes me is the passion, and commitment of those that work in the industry to produce and promote a high quality product that is made unique by its location, and this is exactly what makes Scotch Whisky so special.

"Whisky is a product shaped by its environment and while steeped in tradition, the industry is not afraid to be dynamic and innovative. I am confident that there is opportunity for further growth and co-operation going forward, and that by working together we can make sure that the right skills are in place to ensure that the sector continues to go from strength to strength."

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