THE head of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has countered claims that bosses have faced pressure from Nationalists not to enter the debate on Scottish independence.
SWA chief executive David Frost wrote in an article that the referendum debate had been “frank and constructive”, with positive interventions from both sides. The SNP leadership has been accused of attempting to intimidate business leaders and discourage them from asking questions about independence.
Mr Frost’s predecessor as SWA boss, Gavin Hewitt, has claimed that SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson tried to “neuter” business opinion and that firms feared they could face “retribution down the track” if they spoke out against the Yes campaign.
However, Mr Frost – a former Foreign and Commonwealth Office diplomat – said both sides have conducted the debate in a reasonable way.
He wrote: “For me, it is no surprise that the discussion is intense. Wherever I was posted as a diplomat, the UK and Scotland were famous for knockabout debate, robust language, and strong exchanges of views, in Parliament and in political debate more broadly.
“I have found this personally in the meetings and conversations I have had in recent months. I have had vigorous discussions with all sides of the debate, whether it’s the UK government, the Scottish Government, or political organisations. All sides have forcefully made their case to us about how this debate impacts Scotch whisky, but those conversations have always been constructive. Admittedly, sometimes they have been ‘frank and constructive’, as diplomats say, but I have certainly never considered any of them to go beyond the bounds of what is reasonable.”
Mr Frost, who served as a trade specialist in UK embassies, said the SWA had felt able to participate in the referendum debate, despite the body publicly stating it can “see potential risks in independence”.
Mr Robertson, the SNP MP for Moray, last night welcomed Mr Frost’s intervention.
He said: “This measured and sensible contribution by the current chief executive of the SWA stands in stark contrast to the false claims peddled by the No campaign recently.”