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Scottish government angers whisky trade

A report by the Scottish government has angered members of the whisky trade after it claimed all alcohol products were ‘variations of the same thing’.

Emma Revell said of the report: “Way to undermine one of your key industries and global success stories”

The remarks, which were published as part of a consultation on restricting alcohol advertising and promotion, said: “Without branding and other marketing strategies, alcohol products in each beverage sub-sector are essentially variations of the same thing.”

The report sets out a potential approach to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm in Scotland.

Edinburgh-based whisky consultant and broker Blair Bowman said the “ignorance” by the Scottish government was “astounding”.

“For the government to claim that it’s all just the same thing if you remove branding is completely false and couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said on Twitter.

He went on to say the report has reduced centuries of skill and craft to create Scotch whisky, a “globally iconic spirit”, to “just a gimmick”.

“They really need their eyes opened to the talented people who make Scotch whisky (and other alcoholic drinks in Scotland) and how much care and craft goes into each distinctly different product,” he continued.

Scotch whisky is exported at a rate of 44 bottles per second, according to industry trade body the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

The SWA said it had “deep concerns” about the government’s sweeping proposals laid out within the consultation, which was launched in November.

‘The Scotch whisky industry has a robust marketing code which regulates how brands are advertised globally,” the SWA said.

“We want to share the lessons of regulations already in place so there are no unintended consequences, including a reduction in the vital support the industry provides to communities.”

Figures from the SWA revealed the category’s exports rose by 19% to £4.51 billion (US$6.1bn) in 2021.

Emma Revell, head of communication and public affairs for Centre for Policy Studies, commented: “I’m sure Scotch whisky producers are delighted to be told its all the same stuff in the end. Way to undermine one of your key industries and global success stories.”

Merchandise ban

Furthermore, the report suggests that prohibiting the sale or distribution of alcohol branding merchandise, including T-shirts, jackets and baseball caps, as well as branded glasses and mugs, could be considered to reduce the visibility of alcohol brands.

Bowman noted that in 2018, Scotland welcomed more than 2m visitors to whisky distilleries, who spent £68.3m (US$83.3m) on products and merchandise, adding that this move would be damaging to Scotland’s tourism.

The government report is at a consultation stage, with members of the public encouraged to give feedback on the proposals before the deadline on 9 March 2023.

In the January issue of The Spirits Business magazine, we reported on the Scottish government’s controversial plans for a deposit return scheme, which has some industry members up in arms over its structure.

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