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Your view: the impact of Scottish independence on the drinks trade

Published:  15 September, 2014

With only three more days to go until the big Scottish independence vote we ask the UK wine and spirits industry what it thinks will be the best outcome for individual businesses and look at some of the big issues that might arise after the Yes/No vote. Will alcohol duty rates differ in an independent Scotland? And how would drinks firms cope with trading in separate currencies north and south of the border? What do you think is the right future for Scotland and the rest of the country. Take part in our poll and let's find out...

Whatever happens it is going to go down to the wire with the three latest polls, conducted by Opinium for The Observer, ICM for the Sunday Telegraph and Survation for Better Together, varying from an eight-point lead for independence to an eight-point swing in favour of its opponents.

Scottish independence What would the impact of Scottish independence be for drinks trade?Source: Scotland's referendumScotland's food and drinks industry is worth £13 billion per year. While some drinks firms are unconcerned over possible changes, others are fearful of the uncertainty that independence could cause.

Doug Wood, managing director of Wood Winters independent wine merchant, which operates stores in Edinburgh and Bridge of Allan, as well as a wholesale business, doesn't believe a Yes vote would materially impact his business. "People will still drink wine, and buy it from wherever they currently do - I don't think independence would favour supermarkets over independents. People are not going to take flight and run away - although they might say that in the heat of the moment. Their kids' schools are here, jobs and businesses. People are making out a big fuss over business, but people will still live and work in this country. I'm not in the slightest bit worried."

As for the outcome of the referendum, Wood said: "It's going to be a bit tighter than we thought six months ago. It will depend which way the wind blows on the day and how the last few days of campaigning go."

"It's big, but our lives won't change measurably because of it. We'll still be here."  

A number of Scottish-based wine businesses contacted by Harpers preferred not to comment on the debate. Those who trade both north and south of the border may have concerns over whether there will be different rates of duty, or even a different currency, in Scotland versus the rest of the UK in the event of a yes vote which could significantly impact on costs and administration.

Last month a host of thebiggest names in Scotch whisky signed an open letter to the Scotsman newspaper warning that the business case for Scottish independence "has not been made". The letter, which was signed by 133 business leaders, argued that: "Uncertainty surrounds a number of vital issues including currency, regulation, tax, pensions, EU membership and support for our exports around the world; and uncertainty is bad for business."

The letter was signed by Ian Curle, Edrington's chief executive; Peter Gordon, director of William Grant & Sons Distillers and Graham Stevenson, managing director of Inver House Distillers among others.

The major Scotch whisky producers have been careful not to take a formal position on independence, but have expressed concerns for their businesses. Diageo chief executive Ivan Menezes, told the Wall Street Journal back in May that conflicts over currency and tax arrangements should independence go ahead, could be damaging for the whisky business. Diageo controls over 40% of Scotch production. Menezes also stressed the importance of remaining with the EU.

So, what's your view? Take part in our poll on the home page of and le'ts find out what the overall wine and spirits industry thinks.


From a business point of view if you could vote in the Scottish Independence referendum how would you vote?

View poll results