WHISKY giant Diageo last night said it was prepared to seek a compromise in a row over claims it was trying to "monopolise" the centrepiece event of Scotland's Homecoming celebrations.
The world's biggest whisky producer said it was willing to look again at its lucrative sponsorship deal for the Gathering following criticism it had frozen out independent companies from a food and drink showcase at the event.
Organisers of the world's biggest clan gathering, being held in Edinburgh's Holyrood Park, in July, banned whisky firms from its Scottish Produce Market to avoid a conflict of interest with Diageo's backing.
However, Diageo yesterday said it had not known of the separate showcase event when it struck its sponsorship deal, which included a strict "exclusivity" clause.
Director of corporate relations Ken Robertson said: "This has come as a surprise to us and we can understand the views of other producers. Scotland's whisky industry has a rich diversity of brands and cultures and these deserve to be celebrated."
Mr Robertson said Diageo would be prepared to meet the Gathering's organisers to see if it was possible for other whisky retailers to secure access to the showcase event – but warned it would involve renegotiating the sponsorship agreement.
He added: "We believe the organisers of the Gathering have done a good job in staging and presenting this event. We also believe Diageo has responded positively with much needed sponsorship funding, without which this flagship event may well have foundered."
No-one from the Gathering was available to comment.