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Union campaigns for Scotland whisky bottling monopoly

Trade union Unite has launched a new campaign urging Scotch whisky producers to move all bottling operations to Scotland, called ‘Save Our Scotch’.

‘Save Our Scotch’ has been launched following confirmation of Diageo’s job cuts in Scotland

The campaign follows news that Diageo plans to axe 105 jobs from its Leven plant in Fife and its Shieldhall site near Glasgow as the group moves more of its bottling operations outside of the UK to Italy and the US.

Unite said Diageo was aiming to “divide and rule” by “moving work around the globe to make Scottish workers afraid for their jobs”, while the GMB union accused the group of a “gross betrayal” against workers in what it viewed as a response to Brexit.

Diageo said the restructure aims to ensure it has “flexibility to respond to increased competition and external volatility”.

Now, Unite has launched the UK-wide Save Our Scotch campaign, which aims to safeguard Scotch whisky bottling jobs in Scotland and help “preserve the integrity” of the industry.

Single malt Scotch whisky must be bottled in Scotland according to law, but other types of Scotch can be exported in bulk and then bottled locally in other countries. Local Scotch bottling operations are particularly common in countries with high import tariffs such as India.

However, Unite wants to see bottling operations for all Scotch whisky categories moved to Scotland.

According to Pat McIlvogue, Unite regional officer, such action would both protect Scottish jobs and also better defend the integrity of Scotch whisky by preventing potential contamination and counterfeiting.

“We are trying to protect jobs in the industry, and to do this, we believe we believe we have to make sure the process stays in Scotland,” McIlvogue told The Spirits Business. “But we are also protecting the brand and reputation of Scotch whisky by doing this. We want to protect the industry, from grain to glass.”

Of current Scotch whisky bottling operations abroad, he said: “We appreciate these are conducted under very strict circumstances, but we think we can better control the process if it happens in Scotland.”

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has criticised the campaign, saying it could have “damaging consequences for the Scotch whisky industry and Scotland”.

Julie Hesketh-Laird, chief executive of the SWA, said: “The enormous global growth and success of Scotch over recent years has been built on free trade and we want that to continue.

“A total ban on bulk exports would face serious legal and regulatory obstacles in the UK and EU, and would significantly affect trade with a large number of countries which have been importing bulk Scotch Whisky for many decades.”

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