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Not our fight – Speyside whisky boss

By Lorna Thompson

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A SPEYSIDE whisky boss says the US tariffs on single malt exports is "crazy, abstract and has nothing to do with us".

As Scotch whisky bosses were in the US this week for talks over fears the 25 per cent tariff imposed on single malt exports will be increased, John Harvey McDonough, CEO of Speyside Distillers, said that "without a doubt, jobs could be at risk".

The US imposed a 25 per cent duty on Scotch single malt whisky last October as part of a long-running dispute over aircraft subsidies.

This week international trade minister Conor Burns told MPs the UK Government "will stand up for the Scots whisky sector" and advised the SNP to cease "unwise" attacks on US President Donald Trump over the issue.

Glasgow-based Speyside Distillers owns the Speyside Distillery, based near Kingussie, where it produces the Spey Whisky and Beinn Dubh.

Mr McDonough said those most at risk were medium-sized distillers with significant markets in the US. He said: "This is a very damaging situation for us and other medium distillers who specialise in single malts. The American market is very important to us.

"The tariffs have gone on for a while and there is now talk that blended whisky could be added to the list.

"Without doubt jobs could be at risk – not in our organisation because of our strength in Asia and 10 per cent of our market is in the US. But other medium-sized companies with 40-50 per cent of their market in the US might certainly have to lose staff.

Speyside Distillery, near Kingussie.
Speyside Distillery, near Kingussie.

"The price increase has to be passed on somehow – so this could be really damaging. It's a big worry.

"And it's crazy because the whole thing has nothing to do with our industry. We're caught in the middle of a fight that has nothing to do with us.

"We're members of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) which helps us as a lobbying body."

The Office of the US Trade Representative is reviewing tariffs – which could result in the rate being hiked yet further.

SWA representatives have been in talks with US government trade officials in Washington DC, including its chief executive, Karen Betts.

The SWA has raised fears the added costs will lead to a reduction in the spirits crossing the Atlantic, putting jobs and investment at risk.

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