Moray politicians clash over Whisky industry Brexit fears

FEARS THAT MORAY and Speyside’s vital Whisky industry could be harmed because the brand will not be protected post-Brexit have been dismissed by Moray’s MP.

Douglas Ross has poured cold water over calls made this week by the SNP that Scotch Whisky should be protected – pointing out that it has enjoyed protected status for over 100 years.

Mr Ross was commenting after the SNP’s economy secretary, Keith Brown, wrote to Westminster demanding the current EU definition of whisky be written into UK law during the Brexit process.

In fact, The EU definition of whisky does not mention Scotland at all – and the geographical protection rules merely state that Scotch Whisky’s country of origin must be United Kingdom (Scotland).

However, the MP pointed out that Scotch Whisky has been defined in UK law since 1909 – although it has only been recognised under European legislation since 1989.

Mr Ross said: “The SNP are so busy trying to generate problems in the Brexit process, they haven’t bothered to do their research properly because Scotch Whisky has been defined in UK law since 1909.

“As Vice Convener of the All-Party Group on Scotch whisky, I hope SNP members who are also on this committee and local MSP Richard Lochhead will ensure their Ministers do their research before making similar calls in the future.

“Scotch Whisky is an iconic product that has extremely strong ties to Moray. We should all be working together for the good of the industry not seeking division where there is none.

“Whisky is an important industry for Moray and the whole of Scotland. My focus will be standing up for Scotch Whisky at Westminster, rather than looking for problems where there are none.”

Fears that huge investment in Speyside distilleries is under Brexit threat.

However, last night Moray’s MSP, Richard Lochhead, hit out at Mr Ross, saying that his leaders at Westminster had made a “dog’s breakfast” of Brexit and the Whisky industry had expressed very real fears.

Mr Lochhead told insideMORAY: “I’m astonished by Douglas Ross’s complacency and obsession with defending the UK Government, rather than watching out for our local Scotch Whisky sector.

“Surely even our new Tory MP recognises that his bosses are making a dog’s breakfast out of Brexit and Scotch Whisky industry leaders are quite rightly demanding assurances from the UK Government on ‘robust legal protection’ as they put it and on a whole range of matters.

“Scottish Ministers are calling for protection for Scotch Whisky given that Theresa May seems willing to sign trade deals with the United States and others at any price – with the danger that even existing protections could be traded away.

“Douglas Ross should be vigorously supporting the Scottish Government on this and standing up for Speyside. Of course, the UK Government is desperate for trade deals because it has turned its back on the European Single Market even though we could retain membership even if not in the EU.”