‘Infrastructure improvements needed’ to protect Scotch whisky

Whisky industry calls for improved infrastructure. Picture: PA

Whisky industry calls for improved infrastructure. Picture: PA

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THE Scottish Government must improve transport and digital infrastructure while setting taxes equal to or below the rest of the UK to protect the Scotch whisky industry, according an industry body.

Holyrood must use its new revenue-raising levers “with caution” to keep Scotland competitive and it must improve the nation’s “relatively poor” roads, rail, broadband and mobile infrastructure, according to the Scotch Whisky Association.

Chief executive David Frost also said he is confident of victory in the SWA’s court battle against the SNP’s minimum unit pricing plan in a speech to the organisation’s annual members’ day in Edinburgh.

Mr Frost also attacked the UK Government’s “inconsistent” alcohol policy, promoting exports in one department but recommending total abstinence based on “not a lot of evidence” in another.

READ MORE: Whisky industry issues call to resist moves to Brexit

He said: “The current slowdown in Scottish economic indicators is troubling. To get growth to resume, I call on the Scottish Government to set an explicit policy goal that Scotland should be at least as competitive as the rest of the UK - and ideally more so - and to use its new devolved powers with this in mind.

“This must include a balanced approach to taxation and sustained investment in infrastructure and connectivity.

“Taxation is only one among many economic levers. It needs to be used with caution. If the overall burden on business or individuals is higher in Scotland, or people think that taxes will only go up in the long run, that will inevitably affect decision-making.”

Holyrood can use its new powers to solve “Scotland’s infrastructure problem”, he said.

“Scotland’s roads, rail, broadband and mobile signals are still relatively poor. Ferry connections to, for example, Islay can struggle to meet the demands of local residents and business.”

READ MORE: Where are the biggest growth markets for Scotch whisky

He added: “Our reputation as an industry depends on our being visibly part of the solution to misuse of alcohol. And we are.

He continued: “Of course, our case on minimum unit pricing is still out there. But we are nearly there. The European Court ruled substantially in our favour in December. The Scottish courts now have to produce a final ruling.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We have set out balanced and fair proposals for Scottish income tax which will ensure Scotland continues to be an attractive place to live, work and do business. We will also be extending our small business bonus, which has already saved firms around a billion pounds.”

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