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Issue 119 - The silence of the drams

Whisky Magazine Issue 119
April 2014


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The silence of the drams

Which way will Scotland turn?

The whisky industry is keeping its head down on the question of Scottish independence, subject of a September referendum that may split the 300 year old Union with England and Wales and break up the UK.

There's a polite ‘no comment' from Diageo, Pernod Ricard and William Grant & Sons and the best the Scotch Whisky Association can come up with is this anodyne plea: “We are asking for clarity from both governments so that we can weigh up the likely impact on the Scotch whisky industry.”

Well, good luck with that.

The tone of the debate is already highly charged, one might say febrile, with emotions running high. Interventions by the Prime Minister, UK Ministers and the Governor of the Bank of England have been greeted with something close to abuse by the ‘cyber-Nats'. So why the studied silence from the distilling industry? What are they scared of?

“I think the benefits to Scotland from the whisky industry are really quite disappointing,” says Professor John Kay. “The largest producers are not based in Scotland. Their profits go mostly to people who are not resident in Scotland. They don't pay much tax in Scotland and we don't think they pay much tax in the UK.”

What you need to know is that Kay is a former economics adviser to Alex Salmond's Scottish National Party (SNP); and the SNP are desperate to show that an independent Scotland could be economically viable, especially as oil revenues decline. Add to this last year's UK-wide furore on mult...

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