Scotch whisky is much more than just the favourite drink of many Scottish people - it is also a major driver of growth in the British economy.
A new study by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) shows that the Scottish distilling industry contributes £1.6 billion in duty and tax to the UK Exchequer and supports 68,000 jobs (11,000 directly) in the UK.
The report shows that not only is Scotch one of the biggest UK exports - more than one billion bottles are sold overseas each year - but producers are also investing heavily at home, spending more than £1 billion a year on local supplies and investing more than £100 million in new production and tourist facilities.
More than 10,200 people are directly employed in Scotch whisky production, with the figures for those indirectly involved growing to 43,000 jobs in Scotland and 68,000 jobs across the UK. Of these, some 3,000 people are employed in Scotch whisky production in rural areas, a vital lifeline for some of the most remote parts of the UK.
The Scotch whisky industry generates £800 million of income in Scotland and £1.3 billion in the UK, and spends £720 million on local goods and services in Scotland and over £1 billion in the UK as a whole. Some £96 million alone was spent by the Scottish distilling industry on purchasing cereals in Scotland.
The government was quick to give its support to the industry. Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell said: "For each of the last nine years, the industry has contributed over £2 billion to the balance of trade making it one of the UK's top five manufacturing export earners. Today's report shows that the success of Scotch whisky as an export ambassador abroad continues to be crucial to the health of the economy at home and the well being of thousands of jobs.
"Today's difficult global trading conditions are well documented. However, this report confirms the Scotch whisky industry as an internationally competitive home-grown industry. The government has created the right environment for success, providing a stable economy that helps all our industries. This is reflected in recent figures that show claimant count unemployment in Scotland stands at its lowest level for 27 years. Today's report represents good news for Scotland, and I raise a dram to that success."
Ian Good, chairman of the Scotch Whisky Association, welcomed Liddell's comments: "Government support is invaluable if the industry is to ensure that it continues to play a key role in the economic success of Scotland and for Scotch whisky to remain a worldwide market leader. With one job in every 50 dependent on our national drink, the crucial importance of the Scotch whisky industry to the economy as a whole is vividly illustrated by today's study. Scotch whisky is recognised and enjoyed all around the world and its ongoing success benefits the UK balance of trade and sustains thousands of jobs.
"In recent weeks, there has been bad news on the employment front for Scottish manufacturing and export-related jobs. But this report shows Scotch whisky is an internationally competitive indigenous industry and we are confident that we will continue to build upon this to grow sales overseas.
"This confidence is clearly shown by the significant investments made by distillers in recent years in state-of-the-art production facilities, modern high-speed bottling lines and interactive visitor centres. Investment underpins the long-term sustainability of jobs in the industry, benefits the economy and is vitally important to rural communities."
The report also looked at the white spirits sector in Scotland, a growing industry helped by the growing investment on the part of the major Scotch producers. White spirits production in Scotland generates a further £64 million in income and 3,250 jobs across the UK, the report shows.
Edwin Atkinson, director general of the UK's Gin and Vodka Association, said: "Building on the distilling industry's investment in local facilities, white spirits production in Scotland is creating more jobs and boosting the economy. With over 70 per cent of UK gin and vodka now being bottled in Scotland, white spirits production north of the border supports 3,250 UK jobs."