September 19, 2014 – After a sleepless night of waiting for returns from around Scotland, Scotch Whisky Association leaders are praising the stability that will come from a rejection of the independence referendum. 55 percent of Scottish voters cast ballots opposing a break from the United Kingdom, and First Minister Alex Salmond has accepted the defeat while calling for Scots on both sides of the issue to unite.
“Something like 85 percent of Scots actually voted, which is an incredible turnout and shows just how important the debate has been,” David Williamson of the Scotch Whisky Association said in a telephone interview Friday morning. “We have 55 percent of Scots voting to stay in the United Kingdom, and that from the Scotch Whisky perspective is welcome in that we’ve raised issues about potential business risks from Scottish independence and we welcome the stability that the decision this morning brings.” The SWA’s main concern in the weeks leading up to the election centered on an independent Scotland’s ability to maintain uninterrupted membership in the European Union. A break in that membership, which was not guaranteed, would have affected the tariff-free status of Scotch Whisky exports within the EU, along with the protected status Scotch Whisky enjoys against counterfeiting.
UK officials have pledged to move forward with granting increased control over Scottish affairs to the Scottish Government and Parliament based in Edinburgh, and the BBC reports Prime Minister David Cameron has acknowledged that England, Wales, and Northern Ireland must have similar powers granted to them as well. Cameron has appointed Lord Smith of Kelvin to oversee negotiations on taxes, spending, and welfare, with basic agreements to be in place by November and draft legislation ready for Parliament by January.
Williamson said the SWA will take an active role in the talks. “We’re looking forward to working with all parties going forward because this is a big industry in Scotland…we’re the second-biggest industry behind oil and gas, and it was important that we made our views known…but Scotch is going to be a major cornerstone of the economy going forward, and I think we’ll continue to work well with politicians from across the political spectrum.”
Links: Scotch Whisky Association