The Johnnie Walker maker has a sometimes fractious relationship with the Scottish Government and the company's opposition to Holyrood's favoured policy of minimum alcohol pricing was attacked by shareholders, including a hospital consultant, at Diageo's annual investor meeting in London yesterday.
The board of the world's largest spirits company also had to defend what one shareholder called the "satire" of continuing to pay former chief executive Paul Walsh a seven-figure salary which it said is due in part to his experience in working with the "regional government"in Edinburgh.
Franz Humer, chairman of London-headquartered Diageo, told investors: "We are watching from the sidelines very diligently the debate that is ongoing about the Scottish referendum in a year's time."
He added: "What is important from our point of view, irrespective of the outcome of that referendum, which is something for the Scottish people to decide, is we need to protect the company and do everything we can to continue to operate successfully whatever the outcome.
"For that purpose we are putting plans in place for both alternatives."
With Diageo's support, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) is leading legal action against the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland. The Westminster Government has ditched its plans.
Hospital consultant Richard Long from Nottingham told the meeting that minimum pricing would help stop "teenagers dying of liver disease" and "accident and emergency departments becoming disaster zones".
Diageo chief executive Ivan Menezes said: "Our position on minimum pricing is very clear. We want to support evidence-based programmes that reduce harmful alcohol consumption and not penalise the entire population, the responsible drinkers that are the vast majority of our market place."
He also argued that alcohol consumption is falling on both sides of the Atlantic.
Dr Long said afterwards: "The industry clearly doesn't want to give an inch. Diageo should take leadership."
The decision of Diageo, whose brands include Smirnoff vodka and Buchanan's whisky, to retain former chief executive Paul Walsh as a consultant on a £1.2m salary, was criticised. Mr Walsh, who formally stepped down from Diageo's board at the meeting, holds a number of other appointments and is to become chairman of caterer Compass Group.
Noting the additional £80,000 Mr Walsh will receive from Diageo for sitting on the board of the SWA, private investor Anthony Lee said: "It is almost satire what executives are being paid."
Dr Humer said: "Paul is available whenever I, the board, or Ivan needs him. It is very clear that we have the priority over everything."
He added: "It is very important for him to represent Scotch whisky at Whitehall and with the regional government in Scotland."
There was a small rebellion with 12.7% of shareholders opposing or withholding their support from Diageo's pay report.