Fife distilleries call for rates relief

The Scotch Whisky Association wants business rates relief for distilleries.The Scotch Whisky Association wants business rates relief for distilleries.
The Scotch Whisky Association wants business rates relief for distilleries. | ©photosbyzoe
Distilleries in north east Fife have backed calls from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) calling an extension of business rates relief during the coronavirus pandemic.

The SWA many distilleries will have to pay full business rates, despite many relying on the income from visitor centres, which have been closed due to the Covid-19 crisis.

The association has called on the Scottish Government to extend the business rate relief and grants package to ensure that whisky distilleries are covered. It also said the suspension of excise duty payments for at least six months would give distillers much needed breathing room.

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William Wemyss, managing director at Kingsbarns Distillery, said the visitor centre, with generates 70 per cent of the company’s revenue, had bee closed to protect people.

He added: “These are testing times for all businesses, especially smaller ones like ours, and we are now seeking clarity on what support measures we will have, in particular for business rate relief.

“Our local MSP, Willie Rennie, has been hugely supportive and pro-active throughout which is much appreciated.”

Drew McKenzie-Smith, managing director and the founder of Lindores Abbey Distillery, explained that it currently pays around £52,000 per year in business rates, and, that, given the current circumstances, this is “crippling”.

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“Half of our building is hospitality and retail,” Drew said. “We have 40 members of staff and only five work in the distillery.”

The distillery, which has already had to put some staff on furlough, does not “fit in any category” when it comes to grants or relief from the Scottish Government.

A spokesperson for the SWA said: “There are areas where more targeted support would benefit Scotch Whisky producers, especially small distillers and those who also run visitor centres, shops and cafes which have had to close.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop met with the Scotch Whisky Association and reiterated our position on this issue.

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“It is essential that all businesses act responsibly to safeguard the nation’s health, well-being and economic future. Businesses need to be able to demonstrate how they are scaling down their activity to the minimum necessary.”