A Real Shot Against Scottish Independence

I’m hardly an expert on Scottish public opinion, but haven’t heard much from British Prime Minister David Cameron that sounds likely to make a big difference. Ah, but this consideration (via The Guardian‘s Jennifer Rankin) might be a game-changer, as might be said if there were a Scottish equivalent to Politico:

Scotch whisky makers could lose out if Scotland votes yes in Thursday’s referendum, according to the Dutch bank Rabobank.

Whisky is Scotland’s second-largest export behind oil and gas and is worth £4.3bn a year to the local economy, but sales could be hit if the country loses access to the EU’s free trade area and to markets in the rest of the world where Brussels has forged trade deals

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The Scottish National party has argued that independence would boost food and drink manufacturers by giving them tailor-made support to sell abroad, while they would also benefit from the pound and uninterrupted EU membership.

But Rabobank estimates a newly independent Scotland could be shut out of the EU for at least two years after a formal split from the rest of the UK in March 2016.

“As a result, Scotch could face increased competition from other spirits and might lose competitiveness in key EU markets” – which comprise more than a third of its annual sales.

A new Scottish government would face “a mountainous task” in striking trade deals beyond Europe. Scotch is exported to about 200 countries, with major markets in the US, Singapore and South Africa, while Chinese consumers are also getting a taste for it.

A lot of the impact on Scotch producers obviously revolves around whether an independent Scotland could somehow avoid temporary suspension of EU privileges. But I dunno about the fungibility of drinking habits across types of spirits. I’d sort of figure that Scotch drinkers faced with higher prices would just go downmarket in brands, or suck it up and pay the full tariff. But then I’m a Bourbon drinker when I drink strong drink at all. Are Scotch drinkers more fickle? You can let me know in the comment thread.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.