Scotch whisky could see a boost if a proposed post-Brexit trade deal with Australia cuts tariffs on the drink, the UK government has claimed.
The international trade secretary, Liz Truss, has said she is pushing to ensure a 5 per cent tariff is scrapped as part of a proposed free trade agreement.
But the SNP has dismissed the claim, saying people would not be “fooled” by the Tory government’s rhetoric – given its record of “selling out our vital sectors in pursuit of deals”.
The party’s trade spokesman, Drew Hendry MP, said: “Distilleries have told me that they now face a big gap in their exports due to the EU market contracting drastically as a direct result of Brexit … and that the loss cannot even come close to being compensated by these deals.”
The SNP spokesman added: “The Tory government has proven time and time again that they cannot be trusted to stand up for Scotland’s interests.”
Currently, Australia is the eighth biggest market for Scotch whisky, worth £131m – with hopes any deal removing a 5 per cent tariff on exports could see that figure rise.
Ms Truss said: “A UK-Australia trade agreement would be significant for Scotch whisky and the union. I am fighting hard to get these tariffs cut and secure a deal that benefits producers in Scotland and helps the whole of the UK.”
Karen Betts, the chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) voiced her support for the removal of the tariff.
“We’re looking forward to the conclusion of a free trade agreement with Australia – which will benefit Scotch whisky exports, our Australian consumers and which will support free and fair trade,” said Ms Betts.
“Over the last 10 years, exports of Scotch Whisky to Australia have almost doubled. But they’re subject to a 5 per cent tariff which we’d very much like to see removed, which would help to boost growth in our industry’s eighth largest global market.”
The Scottish government has repeatedly raised concerns over the Australia deal, which first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said would be a “betrayal” of Scottish farmers if food import standards do not match those on domestic production.
The SNP leader also claimed her government was being “shut out” of the deal – an assertion rejected by Westminster.
Britain and Australia are seeking to strike a trade agreement by mid-June, the British envoy in Canberra said on Thursday, following another round of bilateral talks.
“We are working hard to have an agreement in principle at the bilateral between prime ministers [Boris] Johnson and [Scott] Morrison on June 15,” said the British High Commissioner to Australia, Vicki Treadell.