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Scottish independence: drinks trade on tenterhooks as voters go to polls

Published:  18 September, 2014

The wine and spirits trade is on tenterhooks as the people of Scotland go to the polls over independence.

A poll conducted by of around 300 industry professionals showed the vote skewed 59.2% in favour of the Yes campaigners, with 39.3% opting to remain in the United Kingdom.

But opinion polls conducted in Scotland put votes at 51% in favour of remaining in the UK, with 49% going for independence. The polls close at 10pm tonight, and results are expected to be available by tomorrow (Friday 19) morning.

Many in the whisky trade have come out in support of the union, saying uncertainty over currency and EU membership pose threats to business.

A report published yesterday by Rabobank said that independence would have a negative impact on the Scotch whisky industry, at least in the short term. It cited restricted access to export markets, increased risk from foreign exchange and interest rates, hikes in taxation and input costs, as some of the major concerns.

Last month over 200 business leaders, including Neil Clapperton, the managing director of Springbank Distillery, wrote an open letter in favour of independence - responding to a pro-Union letter signed by 130 business chiefs.

The pro-independence letter stated that independence would give the country the powers "to give our many areas of economic strength even more of an advantage in an increasingly competitive world." It also said they would give "more opportunities for our talented and determined young people to stay and succeed."

The opposing letter, signed by around a dozen drinks trade bosses, including Ian Curle, Edrington's chief executive and Peter Gordon, director of William Grant & Sons Distillers, said the "business case for independence had "not been made".

Earlier this week Doug Wood, of WoodWinters independent wine merchant in Scotland, told he didn'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."