Readers give short shrift to whisky case

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LAWYERS looking to bring a joint multi-million pound action against Diageo have set a date for meeting homeowners who live within a mile of the company’s warehousing site in Leven.

The meeting, to be held in Kirkland High School on Thursday, November 30, will be by invitation only.

Lawyers want to discuss ‘whisky fungus’, which they claim can affect properties near to where whisky is stored for fermentation.

A similar meeting has already been held in Bonnybridge, near Falkirk.

US lawyer Bill McMurray, who is currently involved in similar legal action against bourbon distillers in Kentucky, wants to sue the drinks firm for damage to property caused by the harmless but unsightly black fungus, which can cover the outside of houses.

He said the action in Scotland would be a property damage claim and estimated potential payouts, if successful, of between £500 and £1000 for each case.

He also wants to force distillers to fit equipment that will capture ethanol released during the whisky fermentation process, which he maintains causes the damage.

Both Diageo and the industry body Scotch Whisky Association say the fungal growth is the result of a more complex range of naturally occurring microflora and that there was no direct link with ethanol.

The legal team heading the action, which also involves Edinburgh laywers Balfour & Manson, will be sending letters inviting homeowners to attend the meeting next month.

There are also plans to approach other communities, such as Tullibody, Kilmarnock and Shieldhall, near other Diageo plants.

Although the Mail has had no responses as yet from homeowners living near the Leven site, the news of the potential legal action was met with nearly unanimous condemnation by readers posting on the Mail’s Facebook page.

“Let’s drum Leven’s biggest employer out of town,” said Joe McDougall.

“This is a purely cosmetic grime that can be wiped off and in any case takes a while to accumulate. I can’t believe locals want to harm Diageo over something so silly.”

Diageo employee Steven Watson also raised concern about the potential knock-on effect if the case was successful.

“...Diageo could easily move its bottling facilities abroad,” he said “The Scotch Whisky Act states that the spirit only be matured in Scotland, not bottled. Now wouldn’t that be a travesty if thousands of Leven employees were sacrificed for the sake of a few clarty houses?”

“Bite the hand that feeds most of Levenmouth,” commented Linda Linney.

A lot of scorn was targeted at the involvement of lawyers from the USA.

“Typical,” said Jason Finch. “They litigate against anything and everything in the States - now trying to bring the same leeching culture to the UK.”

In a similar vein, Scott George said: “This lawyer will fill his pockets, go home and leave us with a wounded national industry. What a joke. Send him home with his tail between his legs.”

“Typical USA blarney,” said Julie Radke, “Diageo should get our support not claims against them...lawyers looking to exploit in an economic crises.”

Antoni Galloway said Diageo should not be pushed into a court case but instead there should be discussion to reach an agreement on having a system to deal with the ethanol.

“Do not send a message to other companies that we’ll sue them for the sake of it,” he added. “This will result in a lot of companies and retail outlets not wanting to move to Leven and surrounding areas.”