Scotland’s whisky industry body has warned that there are “huge implications” for distillers in terms of currency, taxation, EU membership and trade support if there is a Yes vote for independence.
David Frost, the chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), said that the Scottish Government’s current position on use of the pound sterling “remains unclear”, and that this would “self-evidently” have an impact on exports, pricing and competitiveness.
He also claimed that even a temporary interruption of EU membership would be “damaging and difficult to manage” for the industry if an independent Scotland had to renegotiate entry as a member state.
In a review of 2013 for the SWA, Mr Frost added that Scottish Government proposals for a network of diplomatic missions reached less than half of the 200 markets that import whisky.
He argued that there will be “risks” if international political support for the industry from both governments is not maintained.
Mr Frost, who was a career UK diplomat before taking the top job at SWA in January, called on the Scottish Government to deliver “reassurance on how an independent Scotland could deliver a business, regulatory and export environment at least as supportive as that which the industry currently enjoys”.
“The industry is in a special position in this debate,” wrote Mr Frost.
“We can make Scotch whisky only in Scotland and our brands are indissolubly linked with it – 35,000 jobs depend on the industry.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman argued that it would act in the interests of the whisky industry, “unlike successive UK Governments”.
She added: “Independence will boost Scotland’s international profile, developing new opportunities for the whisky industry including the opportunity to promote itself effectively in the UK and domestic markets.
“As we have previously said, Scotland benefits enormously from our membership of the EU, and we firmly believe that only a vote for independence will secure that membership, with all the benefits for jobs, trade and investment it brings, given the ‘in-out’ referendum proposed at Westminster which risks taking Scotland out of Europe.
“Independence will also give Scotland the economic tools we need to grow the economy more quickly and improve the fiscal position, meaning it would remain as an attractive place for companies to be based and do business.”