Minimum price plan 'could impact on whisky exports'

Image caption, The Scotch Whisky Association said minimum pricing could affect exports

Scotch whisky producers have warned the Scottish government that plans to introduce minimum prices on alcohol will hit moves to boost exports.

The Scotch Whisky Association is calling for a meeting with the new SNP government, which now has a majority to push through the measure.

The industry body said it recognised "the political reality" that ministers could introduce minimum pricing.

However, it said such a move would have "long term consequences"

The SNP has argued that minimum pricing on alcohol would help tackle Scotland's binge drinking culture.

In its manifesto, the party said it would introduce a minimum pricing bill as a priority in the first legislative programme, highlighting the support it won for the measure from medical and police groups.

The plan also garnered support from some parts of the drinks industry, including brewers and the licensed on-trade.

'Legal challenge'

However, the Scotch Whisky Association said: "We will be seeking an early meeting with the Scottish government to encourage it to understand all the implications of minimum pricing, including the long term consequences.

"We remain convinced there are significant legal difficulties with the policy.

"We are also concerned at the long-term effect on the Scotch Whisky industry in our export markets, a matter we hope the government will consider closely given its policy priority to boost exports."

The industry body said the introduction of minimum alcohol pricing could be used as a precedent by those in export markets to introduce their own health-based tax regimes, aimed at curbing trade in Scotch whisky.

In a briefing note, it claimed the measure would be "a green light to countries, already keen to protect local markets, to introduce spurious health-justified restrictions to keep out Scotch whisky, which is often the main imported competition.

"These proposals risk undermining Scotch Whisky exports and are highly likely to face an international legal challenge".

The SNP manifesto also featured a commitment to boost exports with the aim of increasing total exports by 50% within six years.

Whisky represents a quarter of all Scottish exports at present, and about a quarter of all the UK's food and drink exports.

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