EU central to success of Scotch: SWA chief

The head of the Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) David Frost said the European single market was "central to the success of Scotch" and warned against the UK voting to leave the EU in the June referendum.

Westminster environment secretary Liz Truss would meet industry leaders at a distillery today to discuss the importance of the EU market to the £5 billion-a-year whisky business.

Speaking ahead of her visit to Diageo's Glenkinchie Distillery in Tranent, East Lothian, she said: "We should all raise a toast to our biggest export success. Europe has a taste for Scotch and the industry will do better if we remain in the EU because whisky producers have hassle free, easy access to the single market of 500 million people.

"I want the industry to continue to be the powerhouse it has become across the world - boosting our economy and creating jobs. The Scotch whisky industry has strong global trade links beyond Europe in America and Asia, and their business leaders are clear that the EU single market provides the best conditions to reach even greater heights.

"Leaving the EU would be a leap in the dark for our great British food and drink industry and could lead to years of negotiations on new trade deals - with no guarantees at the end."

Diageo produces the famous Glenkinchie, and also supplying brands such as Johnnie Walker and J&B. The biggest Scotch whisky producer in Scotland employs 4,000 people at 50 sites.

Ivan Menezes, Diageo's chief executive, reaffirmed his support for continued EU membership. He said: ''Diageo – and specifically our Scotch whisky business – benefits greatly from the UK's membership of the EU and we strongly believe that we should remain within that union, www.scotsman.com reported.

''The single market gives us a level playing field and open access across the EU, while the EU's clout in international trade helps to open up new markets with agreements favourable to the UK, reducing tariffs and resolving trade disputes.

''This drives significant value for us and the wider Scotch whisky industry, sustaining jobs and growth at home.''