Boris Johnson (pictured) has come under fire over his brazen visit to Moray – one of the country’s biggest Scotch whisky producers – after his “shameful inaction” on his pledge to protect the vital sector from the damaging impact of U.S. tariffs.
Scotch Whisky Association boss Karen Betts warned that the industry was still waiting for Boris Johnson to come good on his word to tackle the tariffs during his last visit to Scotland, stating that:
“We really hoped this would be resolved months ago and the UK government promised to help.
“In fact, the last time the Prime Minister was in Scotland, in November, he said that he would work to remove the tariffs.
“But after months of asking we are really yet to see a clear plan from the UK government about how they intend to resolve this.”
In October last year, the U.S administration imposed tariffs of 25% on a broad variety of products, including Scotch whisky.
With reports this month highlighting that U.S. tariffs have cost Scotland’s whisky sector around £200m – with exports to the U.S. down by 30% since the measures came into effect.
Brendan O’Hara, the SNP MP for Argyll and Bute and chair of Westminster’s APPG on Scotch Whisky, said:
“The Prime Minister’s flying visit to Scotland was falling apart before it had even taken off – with criticisms growing over his reckless plans to drag Scotland out of the EU against its will, refusal to set out proper funding or devolving financial powers to Holyrood to tackle the coronavirus crisis, and industry warnings over the impact of the UK government’s inaction on key challenges.
“However, Johnson’s brazen visit to Moray adds further insult to injury as our world-leading Scotch whisky sector continues to deal with the devastating impact of U.S. tariffs and UK government’s failure to act.
“On his last visit to Scotland, Johnson pledged to stand up for Scotland’s global whisky industry and to tackle the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration.
“Beyond the hollow rhetoric, this Tory Prime Minister is guilty of shameful inaction and abandoning the industry in its time of need.
“Scotch whisky is crucial to the success of Scotland’s food and drinks sector and our economy – with the EU representing the largest single regional export market for Scotch whisky, valued at around £1.4 billion in 2018.
“Since the tariffs were imposed, the economic impact of exports to the U.S. continues to hit home – delivering a hammer blow to Scotch whisky producers by costing the industry around £200m.
“It’s vital that the Tory leader heeds industry warnings and belatedly follows through on his promise to protect the sector and remove the tariffs.”
SNP MSP for Moray Richard Lochhead said:
“Instead of these pointless flag-waving visits, Johnson would better serve the people of Moray by staying in London and delivering on the promises he made when he was here nine months ago.
“Trump’s trade tariffs are a massively damaging financial issue but far from getting them removed – as Johnson promised – his pal Trump might raise them higher.
“That would have a devastating effect on jobs here in Moray and across the whisky industry.
“Avoiding this must be the priority, not self-serving photocalls.
“Once again Johnson is proving his promises are worthless, just like his notorious Brexit referendum pledge of £350m a week for the NHS.
“Scots know to our cost you just can’t trust a Tory.”