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Call for rates relief extension to support whisky industry during lockdown

The Scotch Whisky Association says its members need more help from the Scottish Government while production is scaled back.

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There are fears smaller businesses such as Kingsbarns Distillery will struggle during the lockdown (Kingsbarns Distillery/PA)

There are fears smaller businesses such as Kingsbarns Distillery will struggle during the lockdown (Kingsbarns Distillery/PA)

There are fears smaller businesses such as Kingsbarns Distillery will struggle during the lockdown (Kingsbarns Distillery/PA)

Calls have been made for an extension of business rates relief to support whisky distilleries during the coronavirus lockdown.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said reliefs and grants on offer do not cover its members’ visitor centres, as they do not fit within the definition of “leisure, retail and hospitality”.

It said the businesses will need further support to help them through a time when production has been scaled back, with one distillery saying its centre amounted to 70% of its revenue.

We have called on the Scottish Government to extend the business rate relief and grants package to ensure that whisky distilleries are covered.SWA

An SWA spokesman said: “The sweeping support measures set out by the UK and Scottish governments are welcome and offer important reassurance to business.

“There are, however, areas where more targeted support would benefit Scotch whisky producers, especially small distillers and those who also run visitor centres, shops and cafes which have had to close.

“As currently set out, many distilleries will continue to pay full business rates, despite some sites relying heavily on the income from visitor centres.

“We have called on the Scottish Government to extend the business rate relief and grants package to ensure that whisky distilleries are covered.”

He added that a suspension of excise duty payments for at least six months would give distillers “much-needed breathing room”.

Our finances are OK, but who knows how long this will go on for?William Wemyss

The industry has already had reports of a drop-off in sales in Europe, Asia and North America.

William Wemyss, managing director of Kingsbarns Distillery in Fife, said smaller firms like his will be harder hit by the closure of visitor centres.

He said his business took around 70% of its revenue from such income.

Mr Wemyss added: “Our finances are OK, but who knows how long this will go on for?”

The Scottish Government has pledged to support businesses with a package of measures worth £2.2 billion.

It includes a full year’s 100% non-domestic rates relief for retail, hospitality and tourism and £10,000 grants for firms in receipt of the small business bonus scheme or rural relief.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “In this public health crisis it is vital that all businesses align fully with the social distancing measures introduced to protect the nation’s health, well-being and economic future.”

PA