A SCHEME to protect customers from fake bottles of whisky was launched by Liberal Democrat Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander.
The problem of counterfeit Scotch is understood to cost the whisky industry around £500 million a year, about 10 per cent of its sales, and the government will today begin a scheme which maps out the production stages of the drink showing that it is made to the correct standards in Scotland.
The Spirit Drinks Verification Scheme follows agreement by the European Union to give Scotch whisky protected geographical status.
All businesses involved in any stage of the production of Scotch Whisky must register with Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) by listing all their relevant sites within and outside Scotland, including distilleries, maturation facilities, blending and bottling plants. Bottlers of Scotch Whisky abroad will also be subject to controls.
The total annual cost of the verification scheme of around £350,000 is being shared across the Scotch Whisky industry, in accordance with EU rules.
The scheme was pushed for by the industry which at any time is fighting 70 cases around the world against counterfeit products.
David Frost, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said: “Geographical Indication status is of great commercial value to the Scotch Whisky industry. This is a step change in the protection of Scotch Whisky and should be warmly welcomed.
“We fully support the introduction of the verification scheme by the UK Government. It will give even more protection to consumers of Scotch Whisky. It will greatly improve the industry’s ability to stop the sale of adulterated Scotch Whiskies bottles abroad.”
Mr Alexander MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: “I’m delighted that this scheme is now up and running, helping protect one of the UK’s most important and successful export industries. The verification scheme will make sure people who buy Scotch get what they pay for – the finest spirit in the world. The Scotch Whisky industry is now worth around £4bn to the Scottish economy and employs more than 10,000 people in Scotland.
“The booming Scotch Whisky industry is a huge asset to Scotland and the UK which benefits from being part of the UK and European market. The UK Government is doing its bit today to step in and make sure cheap fakes don’t undermine this unique global export.”