My Column

Scots quality will beat any Brexit blues.

  • Date: Monday 1st April 2019
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No wonder Scotland’s biggest brands are fizzing over Brexit – it’s been a massive headache, and there’s still no end in sight.

With the Prime Minister offering to quit and no sense of agreement over anything at Westminster, we’re now firmly off the radar in terms of where we wanted to be by this point in the process.

Closer to home, Irn Bru makers AG Barr must have thought long and hard before announcing last week that they were stockpiling ingredients to offset any potential post-Brexit problems.

Many others wouldn’t have been so brave. In my experience, big companies prefer to keep their heads below the parapet when it comes to political issues.

However, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if other well-known Scottish brands now followed that example. After all, they have to protect their own interests and ensure that the process of leaving the EU doesn’t hold any nasty stings in the tail for their business.

I know Walkers Shortbread has been working on its Brexit plan for a couple of years now, and plenty others will be quietly doing likewise.

Without pressing the panic button and locking yourself in your Brexit bunker, I think it makes huge sense to proactively take steps to safeguard the elements that make Scottish brands truly unique, whether that’s through stockpiling ingredients or securing a largely UK supply base.

Assuring stakeholders of a robust contingency plan can be just as important as ensuring that products will still be on shelves.

Really, if you were going to act, then you should have done it long before now to guarantee a smooth transition.

Nevertheless, regardless of what state of preparation a business might find itself in, I firmly believe that Scottish brands will always find a way to thrive in a post-Brexit world.

In looking at the wider situation, I considered the fortunes of some our biggest brands and sectors. 

Most whisky brands source ingredients in the UK, but some distilleries source inputs from member states, while the EU accounts for more than 30 per cent of sales. However, I know that German distilleries are keen to cash in if our whisky faces European trade barriers after Brexit – and I’m worried that our whisky producers may find themselves on the rocks.

In the Scottish dairy product stakes, will Mackie’s ice cream melt under the Brexit pressure? I doubt it. While the company hasn’t commented publicly on Brexit, I’d be amazed if it hadn’t taken steps to ensure that all its ingredients are sourced from the UK amid a growing demand for real dairy ice cream.

In the North Sea and beyond, it’s vital that Scotland continues to fully support the needs of its seafood sector and backs a reduction in the need for export health certificates, while removing barriers on using ferries to transport seafood. When we’re up to the gills in uncertainty, we need a steady hand on the tiller at Holyrood.

Tunnock’s has traditionally enjoyed massive success overseas with its ever-popular teacakes, so will likely be feeling a bit nervous right now. Can it have its teacake and eat it? Yes, with its huge global experience, I think Tunnock’s can adapt successfully to any Brexit scenario.

Aberdeen Angus beef has historically endured several difficult periods – BSE immediately springs to mind – and I have no doubt that Scotland’s quality beef message is a valued one that will continue to resonate.

Tennent’s owners C&C have been planning for Brexit for a long time to ensure that it continues to flow, and I’m in no doubt that it will adapt well. Those acting early have placed themselves at a massive advantage.

I’m firm in my belief that enduring Scottish quality that breeds sustained demand will win out in many Brexit scenarios.

Our food and drink producers need to have a little patience, but must have faith that they can come out the other side.

Scotland can brave Brexit.



Last week consumer group Which? brought to our attention a sobering trend that’s gripping the nation’s banks.

A staggering one in three banks and building society outlets nationwide have closed since 2010, leaving the total number north of the border at just over 1000.

And with the rate of cashpoint closures increasing too, there is understandably some debate around provision for people’s access to cash.

Glasgow and Edinburgh have been the worst hit to date, but it’s not hard to see how continued closures could really have an impact on those living in rural communities or the some half a million Scots over the age of 60 who aren’t online.

That’s not even including those who prefer to take a more traditional approach to their banking. After all, an estimated 25 million of us across the UK still count cash as a necessity.

And while technology has a habit of changing our habits, isn’t there some merit in the argument for retaining physical banking provisions, even for those who are online aficionados?

After all, it’s always good to have a back-up plan. Ask yourself what you’d do if your banking app wouldn’t fire up, or you suddenly needed to hop on a local bus with no change in your pocket. 

And, let’s not forget, these closures are leaving gaps on our already struggling two centre high streets. 

Sometimes you just don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.   



One story last week gave me serious Home Alone 2 déjà vu.

I can only imagine the range of emotions you’d experience if your flight touched down on the runway at what you thought was your destination airport, only to discover you were somewhere else entirely. 

That’s exactly what happened to a plane full of passengers on a British Airways flight last week, who unexpectedly landed in Edinburgh, rather than Dusseldorf. 

And, unlike little Kevin McCallister, they hadn’t boarded the wrong flight. The error was, in fact, put down to a mistake in the flight’s paperwork.

Cue the cacophony of “Should’ve gone to Specsavers” jibes.

Thankfully everyone was safe and sound and the flight finally made it to Dusseldorf but, my goodness, what a blunder! 



We’ve all heard the saying that every day is a school day. Well, last week I learned that Aberdeenshire is the nightclub stronghold of the North of Scotland.

New figures from the Office of National Statistics showed that it’s the only local authority in the north of the country where the clubbing sector has grown over the last five years.

Could Aberdeen truly be the last northerly outpost for party lovers? And, as the stats include licensed social and working men’s clubs, we’re not just taking hard core ravers.

Elsewhere, figures have remained static or have even contracted. It makes you wonder, is it all about consumers and night club owners feeling the pinch or is there a bigger cultural shift at play?

Maybe it’s time to join the club.



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