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Chivas chief slams Scots govt for whisky sector lockdown failure

Published:  03 September, 2020

The Scottish government failed to support the Scottish whisky industry at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, Jean-Christophe Coutures, the chairman and chief executive of Chivas Brothers, has said.

“There was a bumpy period in March and April where we were not clear about the direction that the Scottish government wanted us to take.

“We know that we were not seen as an essential business for the economy, even though Scotch whisky is the second largest exporter for Scotland,” said Coutures at a press conference yesterday.

Exports of Scotch grew by 4.4% to more than £4.9bn in 2019, according to the Scotch Whisky Association. Some 1.3bn bottles were exported to 180 markets worldwide.

The lack of political support for the sector is still a problem, added Coutures.

“I still believe that the Scottish government needs to back us up. They need to understand that keeping this category operating is critical, not only to the Scottish government, but to the people of Scotland.” he said.

Alongside The Glenlivet, Chivas Brothers owns a range of smaller distilleries in Scotland, including Aberlour and Longmorn on Speyside and Scapa on Orkney.

Chivas worked together with its employees and their union representatives to keep six of its 14 distilleries in Scotland operational during March and April, while also running four of its 17 production lines.

All functions are now fully back up and running.

During the peak of the pandemic, Chivas’s Scottish operations produced 163,000 litres of hand sanitiser, and was the number-one pro bono supplier to NHS Scotland. It also donated over £500,000 to UK charities.

The Glenlivet recently announced a partnership with National Trust Scotland to uncover Scotland's lost history of illicit distilling.