Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Distiller William Grant and Sons donates to Better Together

Grant's bottle and glasses Image copyright William Grant
Image caption William Grant and Sons is still owned by the descendents of the man who started the company in 1887

A major whisky distiller has donated what has been described as a "substantial sum" of money to the campaign against Scottish independence.

William Grant and Sons said the whisky industry currently enjoyed "substantial support" from the UK government and its worldwide embassy network.

It is understood to have given in the region of £100,000 to Better Together.

The Scottish government has argued that independence would benefit the whisky industry.

William Grant, which produces brands including Glenfiddich malt whisky, had a turnover of more than £1bn last year. It is one of the few Scotch whisky producers to remain in family ownership.

Smaller sums

The company is said to have also donated smaller sums of money to other groups who are campaigning for a "No" vote ahead of the independence referendum, which will be held on 18 September.

Industry trade body the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has not formally backed either side in the independence debate.

Its chief executive, David Frost, said in April he was seeking reassurances about what he described as the potential "risks" of independence for the industry.

However, Mr Frost also said the industry would succeed regardless of the result.

And Diageo, which owns several Scotch whisky brands, has previously said the firm was "there [in Scotland] to stay" whatever the outcome of the referendum.

In a statement, William Grant and Sons Holdings Limited said: "We can confirm that the company has made these donations.

"We support the stance of the SWA over independence and would refer you to their recent statement that the Scotch whisky industry enjoys substantial support from the UK government and its worldwide embassy network and from lack of trade barriers within the EU."

A spokesman for Better Together said: "We are delighted to have received this support. More and more companies, individuals and families are saying no thanks to separation."

'Level footing'

Scotch whisky was responsible for more than £4bn of exports last year, which the SWA said accounted for about 85% of Scottish food and drink exports and nearly a quarter of the British total.

In its White Paper on independence, the Scottish government argued that the biggest threat to the Scotch whisky industry was a potential in/out referendum on the UK's membership of the EU.

It said: "Scotland's food and drink industry does an excellent job promoting the Scottish brand, but Scotland is constrained by the current constitutional settlement, which prevents it from directly engaging on a level footing with other countries.

"The UK's planned in/out referendum on EU membership threatens our food and drink industry's current access to Europe's single market of 500 million citizens and 20 million businesses.

"There is also a real concern, particularly for the whisky industry, that if the Westminster government takes Scotland out of the EU, we will lose the backing of the EU's trade negotiations with countries like India, the United States and China."

On Tuesday, the Electoral Commission is due to publish details of recent donations to both Better Together and the pro-independence Yes Scotland campaign.

Better Together declared donations of £2.8m between May 2012 and December of last year. Since then, it has received a £1m donation from Harry Potter author JK Rowling.

Yes Scotland has declared donations of the £4.5m over the same period, including £3.5m from lottery winners Chris and Colin Weir.

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