Select Committee on Scottish Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from the Scottish Trades Union Congress


  1.1  The Scottish Trades Union Congress is Scotland's trade union centre and exists to support the co-ordination, development and articulation of the views and policies of the trade union movement.

  1.2  The STUC represents in excess of 630,000 working people in Scotland, the members of our affiliated trade unions. Our affiliates have interests in all sectors of the economy and across Scotland.

  1.3  We welcome the opportunity to submit views to the Scottish Affairs Committee as part of the on-going Inquiry into the Drinks Industry in Scotland. The drinks industry is a major contributor to the Scottish manufacturing economy. It is responsible for creating and sustaining a great many jobs, both directly and indirectly, and is of particular significance in a number of fragile, more remote, areas.

  1.4  STUC affiliates represent workers engaged in the manufacture, processing and distribution of spirits, beer and soft drinks, as well as those working in the related hospitality and tourist sectors.

  1.5  Relatively high levels of trade union organisation among the main manufacturers and processors is reflected in relatively well remunerated, increasingly highly skilled jobs and in relatively good training and health and safety records.

  1.6  However, the experience of those working in the related service sectors is rather different. Notoriously difficult to organise, in large measure due to the size and spread of their workplaces, public house and other catering workers tend to suffer low paid, insecure employment, with little access to vocational training.


  2.1  It is difficult to gauge precisely the number of people dependant upon the drinks industry in Scotland for their employment—definitions of the constituent parts of the industry vary.

  2.2  In the Pathfinder to the Parliament initiative undertaken by the Scottish Office in the run up to the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, the Drinks and Hospitality Pathfinder Group concluded that the drinks and hospitality sector (including spirits, beer and soft drinks manufacturing together with the provision of hospitality via hotels, guest houses, restaurants, public houses and catering) employs in excess of 200,000 people and generates sales revenues in excess of £4 billion per annum.

  2.3  The recently published Scottish Enterprise strategy document for the Food and Drink Industry, takes those two sectors together and identifies them as employing 17 per cent of Scotland's manufacturing workforce, with sales of £7.3 billion, 35 per cent of which is accounted for by whisky.

  2.4  The whisky sector taken alone is estimated, by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), to employ more than 11,000 people and to procure more than 70 per cent of its inputs locally, thereby generating indirect employment for a further 30,000 people.

  2.5  It is clear that which ever way you define the industry it remains an important element of overall economic activity in Scotland, contributing significantly to our export performance and our international reputation as a manufacturer of quality products.

  2.6  That different organisations and groupings chose to consider it in different contexts gives an indication of the extent to which drinks production and distribution is linked to other aspects of the economy.

  2.7  However, the markets for soft and alcoholic drinks, both at home and abroad, are relatively mature and, as was concluded in the study of the whisky and spirits industry in Scotland prepared for the STUC and the SWA in 1999[2], the priority must be for all those with an interest in the industry to work together to grow those markets and to ensure that companies operating in Scotland and the Scottish workforce maintain a competitive advantage.

  2.8  Failure in these respects, in the context of technological development and global industrial restructuring will lead to an increasing pace of loss of direct and indirect jobs, with significant consequences for local economic development.


  3.1  Listed below, in bullet-point format, are a number of recommendations for the Scottish Affairs Committee's consideration. We look forward to developing these and other points during our forthcoming oral evidence session:

    —  That the Committee add its backing to calls for a review of the domestic tax treatment of spirits which has discriminated against Scotch Whisky and allows other governments to legitimise similar discrimination.

        Whisky production involves particularly lengthy lead times. Now that the sector is dominated by a small number of large international spirits producers it is particularly important for the future of Scotch Whisky that they are encouraged to continue to make investment decisions which secure jobs in Scotland.

    —  That the Committee add its backing to calls for an end to discrimination against Scotch Whisky in overseas markets.

    —  That Scottish and UK economic development agencies work together to promote the products of the Scottish drinks industry internationally and that Scottish and UK tourist agencies maximise the opportunites arising from the availability of quality Scottish products in their marketing strategies.

    —  That the trend to relocate white spirit production and bottling in Scotland is encouraged along with on-going investment in new plant and equipment and employee development, with the full involvement of the appropriate trade unions.

    —  That full consideration is given to the public interest, including prospects for jobs, in the process of approving merger and take-over activities within the industry (mergers and takeovers have been a particular feature of the spirits, brewing and hospitality sectors in recent times).

    —  That strategies are developed and implemented to promote skilled, secure, adequately remunerated, employment in the hospitality and tourism sectors—to improve fairness at work, to maximise linkages between Scotland's producers and the service sector to help build domestic sales, and to enhance our international reputation.

    —  That the employment relations, health and safety, training and investment approaches of the best employers become the norm throughout the industry.

    —  That the Committee add its backing to the call for workers in the UK to be afforded the same protections at times of redundancy and company level restructuring as their international counterparts.


January 2001

2   "The Scotch Whisky Industry-current performance and future prospects-priorities for improvement", Spring 1999, Professor Mike Danson and Geoff Whittam, INSER. Back

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