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Scotland for Sale: GMB warns UK Government against dropping Scotch whisky’s protected status

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Scotland for Sale: GMB warns UK Government against dropping Scotch whisky’s protected status

GMB Scotland has today (Tuesday 6 March) called for urgent clarification from the UK government amid alarming speculation that the protected status of Scotch whisky could be dropped to secure a future trade deal with the United States.

The trade union has written to the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell MP, following media reports that US trade lobbyists are demanding the right to manufacture their own versions of UK food and drink products currently protected by Geographical Indication (GI).

GI status means the description of ‘Scotch whisky’ can only be applied to whisky produced in Scotland. It also gives protection to other famous Scottish food and drink products like Stornoway Black Pudding and Arbroath Smokies.

The importance of whisky and spirits manufacturing to Scotland was emphasised in the Fraser of Allander Institute (FAI) report, ‘Brexit and the Sectors of the Scottish Economy’, which revealed that export demand from EU and rest of the world markets supported 12,800 and 17,200 domestic jobs respectively - with exports to the EU alone valued at an estimated £1.2 billion.

GMB Scotland Senior Organiser Louise Gilmour said: “These reports come as no surprise but it’s the weak response of the UK government to this speculation that will set alarm bells ringing.

Billions of pounds of value and tens of thousands of jobs are supported by whisky and spirits exports to the rest of the world; it’s the jewel in the crown of our world-class food and drinks sector and we cannot do without it.

For a year now we have warned the government about the threats posed to the sector by Brexit and by future trade deal negotiations but Mr Mundell has dodged and ducked our calls for answers and interventions at every opportunity.

The GI status of ‘scotch whisky’ is an essential measure that ensures Scotland not only maximises the value of the product but also sustains high employment levels through its manufacture, from distillation to bottling.

This is our main point of concern because if you no longer need to make the product in Scotland then you do not need the same number of jobs and manufacturing infrastructure - they will go the US and elsewhere.

If the UK government surrenders Scotch whisky’s GI for a quick-fire trade deal with the US to paper over the Brexit cracks then they would be as well putting a ‘Scotland for Sale’ sign on the door - and with it the livelihoods of thousands of workers.”

Contact: Peter Welsh, GMB Scotland Communications, on 07976 447077.

Notes to Editors:

Copies of the Fraser of Allander Report, Brexit and the Sectors of the Scottish Economy, can be accessed here

US bid to end food name protections ‘will be calamity’ for Arbroath Smokies, The Courier, March 6 2018 -

US lobbying for UK to drop food name protections to sell ‘Cornish Pasties’, iNews, March 4 2018 -


Additional Resources

Letter To David Mundell

download pdf181Kb (pdf) - 06 March 2018

GMB Scotland Letter To David Mundell