New official protection for genuine Scotch whisky
A new scheme has been launched to protect the Scotch whisky industry from fake or sub-standard products.
The Spirit Drinks Verification Scheme has been set up by the UK government to help consumers identify genuine UK-made products.
Producers will have to sign up for the scheme if they want to sell within the European Union. Scotch Whisky is the first drink to be covered.
The industry said the measure would be "warmly welcomed".
Protection under the new rules will in future be extended to other drinks with a geographical origin, such as Somerset Cider Brandy and whiskey from Northern Ireland.
Producers, blenders, bottlers, labellers and bulk importers will need to apply to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) if they want to be verified.
HMRC will carry out checks on all businesses involved in the production of the spirits to make sure they meet strict EU requirements.
Scotch Whisky Association chief executive David Frost said: "This is a step change in the protection of Scotch whisky and should be warmly welcomed.
"We fully support the introduction of the verification scheme by the UK government. It will give even more protection to consumers of Scotch whisky.
"It will greatly improve the industry's ability to stop the sale of adulterated Scotch whiskies bottled abroad."
Launching the scheme, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: "The verification scheme will make sure people who buy Scotch get what they pay for - the finest spirit in the world.
"The Scotch whisky industry is now worth around £4bn to the Scottish economy and employs more than 10,000 people in Scotland.
"The booming Scotch whisky industry is a huge asset to Scotland and the UK which benefits from being part of the UK and European market."
Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "With Scotch whisky being an iconic and global brand, it is only right that those who are looking to buy this premium Scottish product are offered a guarantee that ensures they are protected from fakes or inferior products.
"Scotch Whisky accounts for a quarter of all UK food and drink exports, earning £135 every second, demonstrating the sector's importance to the Scottish economy.
"The industry must be allowed to do all it can to reduce the impact of those who seek to exploit its good name for their own financial gain."