Last evening on Channel 4, I watched a, “Project Fear” propaganda presentation blatantly bundled as a fair minded presentation of the Scottish Independence debate.
At interview, Gavin Hewitt, former Whitehall career diplomat and later chief executive of the, Scotch Whisky Association, (retired December 2013) offered that whilst he had not been approached directly, he had been advised of other members of his former executive team that they had been pressurised to remain, “neutral” in terms of the referendum and that they felt intimidated by, (faceless members of the Scottish Government). He went on to say the Association had to be careful since it was likely the SNP would be in power, in Scotland for some time regardless of the outcome of the referendum. When pressed to produce factual evidence in support of his assertions he couldn’t do so. He had however, “sewn the seeds of mischief” which were readliy seized on as fact by the programme presenter.
Angus Robertson, SNP Westminster MP leader having responsibility for constituences within which much of the Whisky is produced , was singled out by Mr Hewitt as exercising an over interest in the trade, promoting the impression of subtle bullying. Once more he could not provide evidence in support of his claim. His fantasy’s know no bounds.
Clearly on a roll Mr Hewitt also spoke to, “The Herald” 13 June 2014 stressing that, any intimidation directed at him by Nationalists had not been in the context of the independence referendum. More likely outstanding, “Minimum Pricing Unit” business.
Get the flavour of the poor wee soul. An extract from his address to the, “World Whiskies Conference);
“During its hundred year existence, the Association has tackled war, and cereals shortage as a result of war, prohibition in America and many similar challenges – not least from our own governments at home. It has fought against tax and tariff discrimination at home and abroad, and more recently the very serious threat of minimum pricing justified on spurious health grounds. (Hardly a shrinking violet).
Three extracts from his written response to the UK Government’s (Intimidating) Budget, Oct 2013;
“The UK Government continues to impose unacceptable excise duty rises on Scotch and other spirits. Tax now represents 79% of the price of a standard bottle of whisky and this goes straight to the Treasury. There is 48% more duty levied on Scotch Whisky than beer. The French know how to look after their wine trade; it’s a pity that the UK government doesn’t learn from our neighbours.”
“The UK Government’s decision to increase duty on spirits while cutting beer duty is unfair, incomprehensible and undermines one of Britain’s major industries in its home market. It also sends unhelpful signals overseas on how Scotch Whisky should be taxed. Responsible drinkers who like a dram rather than a pint are being penalised and efforts by the government and the industry to create fairer tax regimes for Scotch in its 200 overseas markets are undermined.”
“It is time for the UK Government to scrap the duty escalator for all alcohol to create a more level playing field between alcoholic drinks. The struggling pubs and the hospitality industry rely on spirits and wine sales for more than 40% of their sales.”
This from the wee man, intimidated by Westminster who then subscribes to the, better together lot.
Scottish Government Alcohol Industry Partnership – (Founding Member Scottish Whisky Association) Mr Hewitt!!!
The Scottish Government, concerned at the high and ever increasing levels of alcohol related death’s,illnesses and injuries in Scotland, brought together a group of wide ranging informed opinions from throughout Scotland tasked with a remit to find a way forward much reducing the harm.
“The aim of the Scottish Government & Alcohol Industry Partnership (SGAIP) is to deliver a long term collaborative approach to fostering a culture which recognises that responsible, moderate consumption of alcohol can be part of a healthy society.”
The Report. Approaches to Alcohol & Drugs in Scotland
Gavin Hewitt – Retiral Address – 27 Nov 2013
Alcohol and health has risen up the agenda; I spend a great deal of time addressing how the industry might better contribute to practical work to reduce dependence. We have to do it in partnership; it’s not helpful when your own government gets the wrong end of the stick and risks undermining our success in foreign markets.
Not long after publication of the report Mr Hewitt declared that the Whisky Trade Association would not agree to the introduction of a, Minimum Price Unit, (MPU). A position, at odds with his membership of the, ” Scotland Futures Forum”. Despite his objection the Scottish Government passed the bulk of the recomendations of the Advisory Group into Law. The Whisky Trade Association speedily referred the matter to countries in the, “European Spirits Organisation” soliciting a response in supporting of their stance. Their was a measure of support resulting in the entire matter being referred to the European court. It is anticipated a decision could take between 5-10 years. Meantime the annual scourge of about 40 deaths and countless injuries,illnesses will still be visited upon Scotland.
The Whisky Trade Association, in their statement to the European court stated their was no evidence, Minimum Unit Pricing,(MUP) achieved any of the results claimed by the Scottish Government. This was refuted see;
A Channel Four documentary, on alcohol minimum pricing accused the, “Whisky Trade Association” of adopting the same delaying tactics as the Tobacco firms in preventing the implementation of this important health measure. It further highlighted that the Association was not concerned about overall whisky sales, (since the vast bulk of whisky produced in Scotland is exported), but the cheap vodka products which are produced by the, “European Spirits Organisation”.
A wee bit more about the, (easily intimidated) Mr Hewitt
Having given up his post with the Whisky Trade Association he was elevated, (soon after) to the much more senior position as, “President of the European Spirits Organisation”. (CEPS) is the representative body for the spirits industry in Europe comprising of 30 National Associations representing the industry in 26 countries, together with a large group of leading spirits producing companies. Yup!! the companies with the cheap vodka.
The Scottish whisky industry, (with worldwide sales in excess of £5billion), is a powerful mega bucks rich enterprise which through it’s powerful lobby, (Whisky Trade Association) those driving it are very capable of spreading fear and alarm. Indeed Mr Cameron, originally as one with the Scottish Government bringing forward similar MUP measures has been frightened off by the, Whisky Trade Association. Westminster is to introduce a scheme in England which will achieve nothing. It is now the case, in some instances that water is more expensive than beer. What a disaster.!!!!
Scotland is not backing down to the Whisky Trade Association, (or to the new kids on the block) European Spirits Organisation, bullyboy lobbyists. Vote, “Yes” in the referendum.