Scotch Whisky (Contribution to Tourism)

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

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Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

I thank Rachael Hamilton for, and congratulate her on, bringing this fantastic debate to the chamber.

Members know that I seize every opportunity to talk about my magnificent Stirling constituency. It is a hugely attractive area for year-round visitors due to our unsurpassed historical heritage and spectacular natural settings. The Stirling area is also home to the creation of wonderful whiskies, with excellent events and attractions for locals and visitors alike to enjoy.

Our first stop on the Stirling whisky tour is Deanston distillery. Operating as a cotton mill into the 20th century, Deanston housed the largest water wheel in Europe at the time, which was used to power the machinery of the spinning mill and weaving shed. To this day, hydropower produces much of the energy that the distillery needs. Following the decline of the cotton industry, Deanston mill closed its doors in 1965, but all was not lost. The mill was converted into a distillery and the first-ever bottle of Deanston Highland single malt—very creamy it is, indeed—was produced in 1974.

In 2012, I was privileged to attend the official opening of the magnificent new Deanston distillery visitor centre. That opening signalled the beginning of a new era for the old mill, not just as a popular producer of whisky, but as a popular tourist destination in its own right. Deanston’s unique story is carried across the globe and whisky lovers can share in the experience of its production at its highly recommendable facility.

The Stirling constituency is also home to the incomparable Glengoyne distillery. Located on Burnfoot farm, Glengoyne distillery operates in the area where George Connell began secretly distilling, out of sight of the exciseman—he probably supplied half of Glasgow at the same time, if Sandra White is right. As an aside, in 1899, the distillery manager, Cochrane Cartwright—what a wonderful name—drowned in the distillery, having sampled much of its product, or so it is alleged.

In 1903, Glenguin of Burnfoot changed its name to Glengoyne distillery, and there was a production boom in the 20th century as the local product gained increasing international appeal. The distillery’s building and remarkable setting are must-sees. Less than 40 minutes from Glasgow, it is often dubbed as Scotland’s most beautiful distillery.

I can personally testify that those two distilleries—Deanston and Glengoyne—produce outstanding whisky and also provide superb visitor attractions in the Stirling area. Perhaps we cannot compete with Richard Lochhead and Speyside, in terms of the number of distilleries, but I am sure that we can compete as far as quality is concerned.

The Stirling area’s relationship with the water of life has inspired the Stirling whisky festival, which is returning for its seventh year and is now held in the Stirling Highland hotel, right in the centre of the old town. The festival has been hugely popular and has helped to support the many tourism-related businesses that Stirling has to offer, resulting in an increased visitor footfall to the city, which appears to be on the up. Last year’s visitor figures show that Stirling castle had an 18 per cent increase in visitors, based on figures from 2016. Similarly, 8 per cent more people visited the battle of Bannockburn visitor centre and the Smith art gallery and museum also had an increase in visitor footfall.

It is clear that the Stirling area has much to offer in terms of tourism and visitor activities. Showcasing our proud whisky heritage is an excellent opportunity not just to promote our local whisky products, but to support local businesses, such as those in the hospitality industry that rely on the footfall of tourists and visitors alike.

I, again, congratulate Rachael Hamilton on securing tonight’s debate.