A toast to the contribution made by whisky distilleries to the Scottish tourism industry has been raised by MSPs.
A members’ business debate led by Borders MSP Rachael Hamilton paid tribute to the part played by Scotch whisky in attracting tourists to Scotland as the region gets ready to share in that success, with one distillery already operating and two more to follow.
Mrs Hamilton highlighted the 1.7 million visits made to distilleries, with a visitor spend of £53m overall in 2016, making them as popular collectively as the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh or St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
The Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP was particulary keen to highlight the high hopes here for the new Hawick distillery, the first in the region for almost 180 years, being set up by the Three Stills Company.
After the debate at the Scottish Parliament, Mrs Hamilton sponsored an event together with the Scotch Whisky Association welcoming distilleries from across Scotland to thank them again for their work and celebrate their contribution to tourism.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson also spoke at the event.
Mrs Hamilton said: “It was a real honour to celebrate Scotch whisky in the Parliament and sponsor an event in their name and promote their valuable contribution to Scottish tourism.
“It is important to promote one of our biggest exports and biggest success stories, and I am really pleased that Hawick will again host a distillery following the opening of the Three Stills distillery.
“I would like to thank everyone who came to the event from across Scotland and the Scotch Whisky Association for helping in organising the event.”
Association chief executive Karen Betts added: “It’s fabulous to see Scottish distilleries attracting more and more visitors from the UK and all over the world.
“There has been a 25% increase in visits to Scotch whisky distilleries since 2010, and we fully expect this trend to continue in the year ahead.
“Scotch whisky producers have invested in distillery visitor centres, their staff and shops to ensure their guests get the best possible experience.”
“As well as benefiting our industry, the increasing number of visitors is great news for the wider Scottish economy, particularly in rural areas, with visitors to Scotch whisky distilleries staying in local hotels, eating meals in pubs and restaurants and shopping for local products.”