Scotch Whisky (Contribution to Tourism)

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

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Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

I thank Rachael Hamilton for securing this important debate. It is certainly important with regard to the uniqueness of whisky and what it means to Scotland in exports and people visiting Scotland. They do not come here just for the whisky, but that is part of the experience. When I go home tonight, I will have a wee hot toddy, which might help my cold, and that is part of it, too.

Members have mentioned whisky from various areas. Once I have mentioned my experience, I will give a history lesson.

We now have the Clydeside distillery in Glasgow, which is a £10.5 million project in the iconic pump house between the Riverside museum and the Hydro arena. I am very proud of the fact that Tim Morrison and his family got together, recognising the potential, and built the distillery and visitor centre there. It opened just before Christmas 2017, and I have had the pleasure of going there. There are 25 employees and the distillery is advertising for more. There is a great video display that tells people all about the whisky experience.

The reason why I want to talk about history is that Tim Morrison’s great-grandfather built the pump house in 1877, so building the distillery on that iconic site is like coming home for Mr Morrison and his family. However, it is not just about that. There is a fantastic history of distillers in Glasgow and the Clydeside, and, with the boats coming in and out, whisky was exported from there. I will give members a wee bit of history so that they will thank Glasgow for the fact that whisky is made here in Scotland.

I do not want to be political about it, but the story starts way back in 1707, when Glaswegians were not very happy with the situation between England and Scotland. To stop any riots in the streets, they were not allowed to have gatherings of more than three people in the street. People were incensed about various things so there was rioting, which started when the British Government decided to start collecting the first malt tax, in 1725.

Glaswegians rose to oppose the tax, and they attacked the property of Daniel Campbell of Shawfield. They rioted, plundered his house, which was on Glassford Street and the Trongate, and caused a lot of damage. Some were jailed and some were not, but, in the end, the city of Glasgow had to pay Daniel Campbell the sum of £6,080 in compensation for the damage that had been done. He sold his house and moved to the islands of Islay and Jura. They were his private property, so he looked at malt whisky production, which is where the connection between Glasgow and whisky comes to the fore. He decided to introduce new crops such as barley and, because he owned the islands, nobody visited to ask for tax. Basically, he started the whisky industry in Islay and Jura. Bowmore, the first planned village in Scotland, was created on Islay in 1760, and the Bowmore distillery, as it is now known, has been there ever since.

It seems right that the industry that produces Scotland’s national drink and that employs 10,000 people directly and another 30,000 people indirectly can trace part of its growth back to the bubbling sense of injustice of Glaswegians. The riots stemmed from the most Glaswegian of desires—the desire to chart our own path and destiny as a city and to enjoy a few swallies without being sold up the river.