Moray whisky trail 'a missed opportunity'

Image caption Speyside is home to about half of Scotland's malt whisky distilleries

Speyside's unique malt whisky heritage should be marketed more vigorously to attract wealthy tourists, according to the former chairman of VisitScotland.

Peter Lederer, who is also director of Diageo in Scotland, said Moray's whisky trail was "a missed opportunity".

He said the area should learn from some of the world's top regions for vineyard tourism, such as South Africa, California and Spain.

Speyside is home to about half of Scotland's malt whisky distilleries.

It boasts some of the most famous and long-established distilleries as well as the only working cooperage in the UK.

However, the former tourism boss believes the area is not fully capitalising on its unique position.

Mr Lederer said: "I think you've got an opportunity here with an industry that has proven it has growth potential.

"We should look at it as an economic opportunity, how can Scotland benefit from this growth industry and build on it?

"I've been to South Africa and looked at what Stellenbosch is doing, and Franschhoek next door. All the wineries are working together, they're all individual, they've all got great products and beautiful restaurants, coffee shops and hotels. All are working with government, at all levels, to market South African wine.

"And then I look at Speyside and see that as a lost opportunity."

Scotch exports were worth £4.23bn in 2011 - representing roughly a quarter of Scotland's total exports, with 40 bottles shipped overseas every second.

Mr Lederer's comments come after calls were made for a tax to be levied on each bottle of Scotch, to give Scotland a greater share in its growing success.

Professor John Kay, who served on the Scottish government's Council of Economic Advisers, told a BBC documentary, Scotched Earth, that whisky's recent exporting success had brought "disappointing" benefits to its country of origin.

He said Holyrood could put a levy on the water used in the distilling process, a suggestion backed by another former economic advisor to the government, Sir George Mathewson.

'Fragile rural economy'

However, the whisky industry said move would hit demand, reduce investment and cost jobs.

Mr Lederer said: "The industry provides huge numbers of jobs, it's a successful industry.

"In Speyside, it is a huge player in a fragile rural economy. How can we build that, so it's not only a visitor experience but also growing the economy in that area?

"There's only one place that could call itself the malt whisky valley, and that's Speyside.

"That's the way we should be looking at it, rather than asking what the industry gives back."

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