Cross-party MSPs wrote to US over whisky tariff increase

A cross-party group of Scottish MPs has written to the US ambassador to demand a meeting over “devastating” plans for import tariffs on Scotch whisky.

The letter to Woody Johnson, US ambassador to the UK, was written by East Lothian Labour MP Martin Whitfield and signed by 13 MPs from Labour, the SNP, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

The proposed tariff increase of 25 per cent on single malt Scotch whisky, put forward by President Donald Trump, is due to come into force on Friday and is projected to cause a 20 per cent drop in exports to the US.

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Scotch whisky accounts for 70 per cent of Scotland’s food and drink exports.

The proposed tariff increase of 25 per cent on single malt Scotch whisky were put forward by President Donald Trump. picture: Lisa Ferguson

Single malt exports to the US in 2018 were worth more than £380 million, and the whisky industry supports 10,000 jobs in Scotland.

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The MSPs wrote: “As you will be aware, the United States is a critical market for the Scotch whisky industry.

The US is the single largest market for this sector and is responsible for 22 per cent of our global exports, which is worth over £1bn at export value.

Scotch whisky accounts for 70 per cent of Scotlands food and drink exports. Picture: Getty Images

The proposed tariff increases of 25 per cent on single malt Scotch whisky is projected to cause a 20 per cent drop in exports to the US.

“The proposed tariff increase will therefore have a devastating impact on the Scottish economy. Scotch whisky accounts for 70 per cent of Scotland’s food and drink exports and we are profoundly concerned that these tariff changes will impact the 10,000 jobs in Scotland the industry currently supports.

“Over two thirds of these jobs are based in rural communities across Scotland and they provide vital investment across these local economies.”

It added: “We are seeking an urgent meeting to request that, in your position as US ambassador, you would be willing to communicate these clear concerns to the US President.”

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“Serious for the industry"

Karen Betts, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, last week described the tariff as “serious” for the industry.

Mr Whitfield, whose constituency includes the Glenkinchie distillery, said: “The United States is a crucial market for the Scotch whisky industry and I am deeply concerned that these new aggressive tariffs will have a devastating impact on our world-class whisky distilleries.

“This hike in tariffs will have a disproportionate impact on small companies in rural communities across Scotland and we are urging the US ambassador to meet us at the earliest opportunity to address these issues and relay our concerns to President Trump.”

He added: “It is in the interests of American consumers as well as jobs within the whisky industry that we seek an urgent delay to these unfair tariff rises before they come into effect on Friday.”

Other goods being targeted include popular exports from Scotland such as cashmere sweaters, dairy products and pork.

The tariffs will also apply to olives, biscuits, books and some machinery.