The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has sought assurances from the UK Government on certain elements of the support package announced last week, including on whether business rates relief will apply where distilling, retail and hospitality sites are co-located.

The government announced its support package for businesses as a result of the disruption being caused across the economy by Covid-19.

Although Scotch whisky distillery visitor centres have closed as per government orders, it is not currently possible for visitor centres, cafes and other hospitality and retail units located at distilleries to qualify for the relief.

SWA chief executive Karen Betts said: “The support measures set out by the UK and Scottish governments, covering business rate relief, access to loans and a safety net for employees, is hugely welcome and offers important reassurance to Scotch whisky producers, large and small.

“However, we still need clarity on some aspects of the support.  Business rates relief is key for distilleries, which also run visitor centres, shops and cafes which have had to close, but it’s not clear that they will qualify under the terms announced. We’re asking the Scottish Government for urgent clarification.”

Additionally, the SWA has called for the deferment of duty payments due on 25 March for a period of at least six months.

The measure is critical to cash flow in Scotch whisky businesses and will help producers to withstand the impact of the coronavirus and support their supply chain, SWA said.

The trade body is also in talks with the government and other authorities about how Scotch whisky companies can contribute to the production of hand sanitiser during the coronavirus crisis.

Betts further added: “We are also asking for the payment of excise duty to government to be deferred for at least six months. Payment is due this week, and deferring will support distillers’ cash flow and give them much-needed breathing space at a time when hospitality and exports are hugely impacted globally.

“It will also help distillers to support the companies that supply them, many of which are small businesses at the heart of Scotland’s rural economy.”