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By G.A.Ponsonby
 
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague’s threat that Scotch whisky would no longer be promoted overseas has backfired after it emerged that the UK Government actually charges Scottish organisations for use of British Embassy facilities.
 
First Minister Alex Salmond today revealed that the Scottish Development body are charged £3000 every time they hold a reception aimed at promoting the iconic drink.

In contrast, when UK trade and Investment groups hold similar events they are allowed to use the facilities for free.

The two tier situation emerged at First Ministers Questions at Holyrood when Mr Salmond was asked about Mr Hague’s comments.

Answering a question from SNP MSP John Finnie, Mr Salmond said that he didn’t believe the Tory Minister’s threat would damage the international whisky industry.

However Mr Salmond went on to reveal the situation that sees charges levied against the Scottish Development body:

“But looking into this I discovered some interesting details." said the First Minister.

“Currently when Scottish Development International, judged one of the most successful international development agencies in the world and recorded as Scotland having the best record for international investment by channel 4 fact-check among many other observers , when they hold receptions promoting whisky in international embassies were charged up to £3000 a time for the privilege.

“UK trade and investment hold receptions are charged nothing at all.

Mr Salmond lamented the fact that he had not realised this and then went on to gently mock the Tory Minister, saying:

“I really do think we should remind William Hague of that old ditty from Andy Stewart:

“How nice it would be if the whisky was free and the embassies full up to the brim”

SNP MSP John Finnie responded to Mr Salmond’s answer and said:

“Despite the £3,000 charge by UK embassies to host receptions promoting Scotch whisky, it remains Scotland’s most iconic product and Mr Hague should be ashamed of his petty and inaccurate scare-mongering.

“Worldwide whisky exports reached £3.54billion in 2010. It is simply one of our finest exports that are appreciated globally.

“Mr Hague needs to learn it is unacceptable to embark on a smears campaign like this. Westminster Ministers haven’t learned their lesson following David Cameron’s meddling in our affairs by trying to put strings on Scotland’s future.

“This ridiculous claim has backfired badly for Mr Hague as Scotland’s whisky industry is going from strength to strength.”

Scotch whisky was recently granted geographical indication protection by China after Mr Salmond visited the country, it is the first international product to receive such legal protection,

During his last visit in December the First Minister personally launched the Scotland food and drinks strategy for Asia.

China is an emerging Scotch whisky market with massive growth potential, direct exports soared to £62.3million in the twelve month to November 11.

Worldwide exports of Scotch whisky reached £3.54 billion in 2010.  The industry is worth £4 billion a year in added value to the UK economy, supporting 35,000 jobs.

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