Scotch whisky trade body appoints first female chief

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has appointed the first woman to hold the post of chief executive in its 105-year history.
Karen Betts takes up her new role in May. Picture: ContributedKaren Betts takes up her new role in May. Picture: Contributed
Karen Betts takes up her new role in May. Picture: Contributed

Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) diplomat Karen Betts, who was most recently the British ambassador to Morocco, takes up the role on 19 May.

She takes over from acting chief Julie Hesketh-Laird, who stepped up when David Frost – a fellow diplomat – left in November to become foreign affairs special adviser to foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

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Betts said: “I am thrilled to have been appointed as CEO of the Scotch Whisky Association to represent one of Scotland’s most important industries, at home and overseas.

“It’s an exciting and challenging time for the Scotch Whisky industry, and I am looking forward immensely to helping ensure its success into the future. I am also delighted to be moving back to Edinburgh with my family.”

Betts, who studied law at the College of Law in Guildford and history at the University of St Andrews, has spent 16 years at the FCO, holding a variety of posts in London and overseas. These included counsellor to the British embassy in Washington and roles at the UK’s permanent representation to the European Union in Brussels and the British embassy in Baghdad.

SWA chairman Pierre Pringuet, said: “We are delighted that Karen will be joining us and bringing fresh leadership to a talented SWA team as it continues to represent its members’ interests effectively around the world.

“Her wide international experience will be particularly valuable as we work with government to grow the Scotch whisky industry globally and make a success of the UK’s exit from the EU.”