His comments followed the announcement that representatives from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) would meet US Government trade officials in Washington DC amid concerns of further tariff increases on single malt whisky.
GMB Scotland organiser for whisky & spirits Keir Greenaway said further tariff increases were bad news for the Scottish economy and should set alarm bells ringing for any future UK-US trade negotiations post-Brexit.
‘SWA in a panic’
“This is an uncompromising US administration and there will be no special favours for the so-called ‘special relationship’ – it’s no wonder the SWA is in a panic and Scotland should be too,” said Greenaway.
“A further hike in tariffs could impact on distilleries and maturation in island, rural and northern operations and could also harm bottling operations in the central belt too. Those workers and their communities will be seeking urgent assurances from the UK Government.”
Greenaway continued calls for the Government to bring forward protective measures for the whisky and spirits sector to mitigate the impact of previous tariff increases and to tackle the prospect of more in the future.
‘The jewel in the crown’
He added: “Alongside oil and gas, food and drink manufacturing – with whisky and spirits the jewel in the crown – are the foundations of the Scottish economy, but its massive value and importance to Scotland is perhaps something that’s lost on Boris Johnson and his Brexit Cabinet. They need to wake up now.”
The SWA previously warned the tariffs on Scotch whisky – as part of a wider range of tariffs levelled on EU produce by the US – would put jobs at risk and stunt investment and productivity in the sector, with smaller producers the hardest-hit.
Speaking in October, SWA chief executive Karen Betts said: “Scotch whisky has been imported tariff-free to the US for the last 25 years. This move undermines decades of hard work and investment, which has seen Scotch whisky sales boom in the US. It will impact both our industry and its supply chain.”