Scotch Whisky (Contribution to Tourism)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 27th February 2018.

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Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I, too, thank Rachael Hamilton for creating this opportunity to talk about the wonderful Scottish product that is whisky. It is almost impossible to imagine that, between 1837 and now, there was no informal production of whisky in Rachael Hamilton’s constituency, as there was right across Scotland. Indeed my father, as a GP in Fife, used to get the occasional informal bottle from one of his patients in the 1950s and 1960s.

I have an intern working with me at the moment—Chase, who is from the United States. He tells me that, prior to departing for Scotland, he received three questions: whether he would be buying a kilt, whether he would be trying haggis and how many whisky tours he would be tagging along for. Thus far, he has had no budget for a kilt, he has yet to try haggis and he has been on only one tour, so he still has a lot to do. That is testament to how much is known about whisky and how important it is as a symbol or emblem of Scotland and Scottish tourism.

Why does whisky account for such a large proportion of our food and drink exports? I suggest that it is because of its diversity. We have a whisky for every occasion and palate, with or without food. I have a pal who shared a tiny portion of whisky out of a bottle that cost £1,000. I will not buy such a bottle, and I noticed the care with which my friend resealed the bottle to ensure that there was no escape. There is a little bit of magic in every bottle of whisky.

There is also a bit of a gender issue around whisky. It is predominantly thought of as being a male drink, so I welcome the fact that, yesterday, Johnnie Walker produced a new bottle of whisky called the Jane Walker, which has a young lady on the label instead of the man in the top hat. That has not necessarily gone down terribly well. Maura Judkis wrote a long and amusing article for

The Washington Post yesterday, at the end of which she says, “This article is satirical.” If we are to change the gender issue around whisky, we might need to be a little more cautious about how we do it.

Huge numbers of people visit distilleries. My constituency has four, and I hope to get Chase up to visit some of them, to multiply his one visit to a distillery. The Isle of Arran distillery had more than 100,000 visitors in 2017. The numbers keep going up, and most distillers have found it useful to have a visitor centre to increase knowledge of whisky and to let people see the skills involved and the setting for this wonderful drink that goes across the world.

I often make personal references in my speeches, so I cannot let pass the opportunity to mention my father’s cousin, James Stevenson, later Lord Stevenson, who was the managing director of Johnnie Walker when the symbol that is currently on the label was introduced. As part of Lloyd George’s Government, he was responsible for the Immature Spirits (Restriction) Act 1915, which meant that whisky was kept in bond for three years, which improved its quality and marketability. He was also responsible for the fact that the English got a football stadium: Wembley.