Scotch whisky could see a boost if a proposed future trade deal with Australia cuts tariffs on the drink, the UK Government has said.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has said she is pushing to ensure the 5% tariff is scrapped as part of a proposed free trade deal with Australia.
Currently, Australia is the eighth biggest market for Scotch whisky, accounting for £131 million, with hopes any deal could see that figure rise.
Ms Truss said: “A UK-Australia trade agreement would be significant for Scotch whisky and the Union.
“Part of the promise of leaving the EU was striking deals with countries well beyond Europe, opening new opportunities for iconic British goods like Scotch overseas.
“I am fighting hard to get these tariffs cut and secure a deal that benefits producers in Scotland and helps the whole of the UK.”
Karen Betts, the chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) also voiced her support for the removal of the tariff, saying: “We’re looking forward to the conclusion of a free trade agreement with Australia – which will benefit Scotch whisky exports, our Australian consumers and which will support free and fair trade.
“Over the last 10 years, exports of Scotch Whisky to Australia have almost doubled. But they’re subject to a 5% tariff which we’d very much like to see removed, which would help to boost growth in our industry’s eighth largest global market.”
Ahead of a visit to an Edinburgh distillery, UK trade minister Graham Stuart said: “As we continue to reduce trade barriers and cut red tape, UK businesses and consumers can be assured that they will benefit from all the trade deals we are signing with countries across the world.
“The 800 Scottish businesses exporting goods to Australia last year are no exception to this and the others that will join them will only further showcase the very best Britain has to offer.”
But the Scottish Government has repeatedly raised concerns over the deal, which the First Minister has said would be a “betrayal” of Scottish farmers if import standards do not match those on domestic production.
Nicola Sturgeon also claimed the Scottish Government was being “shut out” of the deal – an assertion rejected by Westminster.
Drew Hendry, the SNP’s international trade spokesman at Westminster, said: “Distilleries have told me that they now face a big gap in their exports due to the EU market contracting drastically as a direct result of Brexit and new red tape, and that the loss cannot even come close to being compensated by these deals.
“We have already witnessed our seafood industry being sold out, and we know the devastating impact the proposed Australia deal will have on Scottish farmers and crofters – threatening the viability of Scottish lamb and beef farming and undercutting the sector.
“The Tory Government has proven time and time again that they cannot be trusted to stand up for Scotland’s interests.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Scotland has been removed from the European Single Market, which is seven times the size of the UK, at great economic cost, and analysis shows that deals such as the proposed Australia FTA will do little to compensate for the losses of Brexit.
“We are concerned that a UK-Australia FTA could have significant, damaging consequences for Scotland’s farmers and crofters.
“The UK Government’s own scoping assessment showed Scotland’s agri-food and semi-processed food sectors losing out as a result of this proposed FTA.
“The Scottish Government has been clear that all imports of Australian agri-food must be produced to equivalent standards of Scottish production and that any increase in imports of Australian agri-food must be managed by tariff rate quotas to ensure Scottish producers are not disproportionally impacted.”