MSP Fergus Ewing (left), SWA head of communications Rosemary Gallagher (centre) and SCDA chairman Alan Wolstenholme celebrate the new venture.
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) will work in partnership with the Scottish Craft Distillers Association (SCDA) to help celebrate ‘record expansion’ in the Scotch whisky sector and its continued contribution to the UK’s economy.
According to SWA, 14 new distilleries have started producing whisky since 2013, and another eight are set to open this year. There are currently up to 40 new distilleries at various stages of planning and development across Scotland, and the industry in its entirety contributes almost £5 billion to the British economy.
The trade bodies have today signed a memorandum of understanding, which details their plans to grow recognition of the Scotch whisky industry.
They include a campaign to grow understanding of the rules that apply to Scotch whisky production, handling and marketing in a bid to further increase consumer confidence in Scotch. For example, for a product to be labelled Scotch whisky, the spirit must mature in oak casks in Scotland for at least three years before being released for sale.
The partnership announced today will also encourage shared approaches to stakeholder engagement, including around raising awareness of best practice in the responsible marketing and promotion of Scotch whisky; and working together to ensure that the industry workforce is appropriately skilled.
The SWA will continue to lobby for a reduction in duty on Scotch whisky, after it found that more than a quarter of all spirits taxes paid in the European Union were applied to British-made products. In total, the price of an average bottle of Scotch whisky in the UK is made up of 77% in tax – one of the highest rates anywhere in Europe.
SWA acting chief executive Julie Hesketh-Laird said: “We are seeing unprecedented investment in the Scotch whisky industry by companies of all sizes. This is a clear sign of optimism in the future, and recognition of the global demand for a high-quality product.
“The SWA has over a century’s wealth of experience and expertise – for example in market access, legal protection, and promoting social responsibility – that we are looking to share more widely with new entrants to the industry. Our collaboration with the SCDA reflects the strong partnership that has developed between new and established distillers.”
That sentiment is one that Alan Wolstenholme, the chairman of SCDA, agrees with.
“Both long-established Scotch whisky producers and the new wave of smaller distilleries recognise the enormous value and importance of the high regard our national product is held in around the world,” he said.
“This agreement demonstrates both organisations’ determination to work co-operatively together to protect and enhance Scotch whisky’s reputation now and in the future.
“The SCDA warmly welcomes the genuine support and encouragement it has received not only from everyone across the industry, and in particular from the SWA, but also from the Scottish government and its agencies.”
The signing of the new partnership was witnessed by Fergus Ewing, the Scottish government’s cabinet secretary for the rural economy and connectivity.
“I welcome this initiative between the Scotch Whisky Association and the Scottish Craft Distillers Association,” Ewing said. “This is exactly the sort of collaboration we want to see in our food and drink sector. Closer co-operation has the potential to benefit both organisations and help ensure the continued success of the Scotch whisky industry and its supply chain.”
In particular, he said, small-scale Scotch production has the potential to reinvigorate smaller communities across Scotland.
“Craft Distilling has blossomed over the past few years and is becoming an increasingly valuable part of our economy, particularly for those who live in our rural and island communities. Today marks the start of a partnership that will support the industry into the future, building on Scotch whisky’s long-term, global reputation for provenance and high-quality products.”
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