Mark Kent: Scotland’s whisky industry can be an engine for success in 2023

Mark Kent: Scotland’s whisky industry can be an engine for success in 2023

Mark Kent

The chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Scotch Whisky As­so­ci­a­tion, Mark Kent, discusses the current state and future aspirations of the Scotch whisky industry, the challenges it has faced and its potential to create profit and support other related sectors.

Across more than five centuries, the Scotch whisky industry has experienced many pivotal years, some challenging, some transformational. But, few years have presented both in such equal measure as 2022.

Alongside other sectors closely linked to Scotland’s world-class tourism and hospitality offering, the industry has battled to recover from Covid, while facing into the headwinds of workforce shortages, supply chain pressures and the cost of living crisis.

Yet, on the global stage, our exports have rebounded, growing as new consumers in every corner of the globe discover or deepen their love of Scotch whisky. No other industry is at once so local and so global in its nature.

Scotch is local; made by people in communities the length and breadth of Scotland, urban and rural, inland and island.

Scotch is global; exported to 180 countries around the world. In the few minutes it will take you to read this column, more than 13,000 bottles have been shipped.

Over the past year, our industry has once again proven itself to be an anchor in rough economic seas, with export growth allowing us to create new jobs and increase investment in communities at home, during a time when the domestic economy needs support.

This is how responsible sectors should act – turning growth into investment, employment, and tax revenue in a virtuous economic cycle. This is also what the Scottish Government, in line with its national economic strategy, wants us to do, creating a “fairer, wealthier and greener country”.

Scotch whisky companies are collaborating with the supply chain from glass to grain, and investing heavily to ensure that the industry meets its ambitious zero carbon ambitions.

Whisky is crucial to Scotland’s future financial success

Demand for whisky around the world has never been stronger. If the UK Government can finally seize the once-in-a-generation chance of a free trade agreement with India that reduces the 150% tariff on Scotch, it would be truly transformational.

Westminster has continued to support the industry domestically by extending the duty freeze on spirits. We will be urging the chancellor to continue that support in the Spring Budget on March 15.

The Scottish Government also has a crucial role to play in supporting our industry across hospitality, tourism, manufacturing, agriculture, skills, rural development, sustainability – the list goes on. Scotch whisky is crucial to the success of Holyrood’s national economic strategy.

Our ask of UK and Scottish Governments is simple: work with us to maximise the unique opportunity our sector represents, and we will create prosperity in communities across the country.

As we prepare to welcome in the New Year, our ambition is to make 2023 a year when the Scotch whisky industry is not just an anchor, but the engine for future prosperity.

Mark Kent is chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Scotch Whisky As­so­ci­a­tion

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