The Scotch Whisky Association has said the industry faces headwinds in key export markets, and warned that despite the Smith settlement the constitution appears to be a bigger election theme than business competitiveness and wealth creation.

David Frost, the SWA's chief executive, told a members' conference in Edinburgh that the slowing of global trade was challenging the industry, with a limping eurozone, a major crisis in Russia and austerity in China. "None of this is going to get any easier in the short run....we all feel under more pressure and having to work harder to get results."

Scotch exports are down 3per cent by volume and 7per cent by value, but Mr Frost said: "Trends are still working in our favour, we are still consolidating in developed markets, in emerging markets underlying growth is strong, especially in big markets like Mexico, Brazil or India. It's only the problems in China or Russia, or the dreadful economic policy-making in places like Venezuela, that blur the picture."

He said the alcohol industry partnership with the Scottish government was delivering excellent outcomes and the sector's new marketing code was "a model of good practice in how to market responsibly in the online world".

Mr Frost said seven new distilleries had opened since early 2014 and 30 or so projects were in the pipeline. "We haven't seen anything like this for years. These new entrants to our industry will bring extra economic strength and political weight."

He welcomed the higher profile for Scotland in UK politics "because more systematic focus on Scotland's needs, by way of infrastructure, skills, connectivity, and business support, after the election, can only be good for us".

But Mr Frost said after the referendum, Scottish business had urged a stable and sustainable settlement with extra powers used to boost competitiveness.

"To put it charitably I am not sure these ideas have been a big theme in the election campaign so far. Of course social spending and greater equality are important, but we will not achieve them unless we have a prosperous and successful business sector here in Scotland and across the UK."

He added: "Nor will we achieve them if politicians end up casting aside the work of the Smith Commission for short-run political reasons and getting into yet another debate about the constitution."

Ian Shackleton, head of global beverages research at Nomura, said the US was the fastest-growing 'emerging market' for international spirits. "It has gone into super-growth on the back of lower gas prices, and could grow revenues by 4-5 per cent and profits by 7-8per cent. The real question for Scotch whisky, which has been under-performing, is can you get your share of that growth?"

Fraser Thornton, managing director of Burn Stewart, said single malts were driving all the US growth while blended Scotch was "stagnant and continuing to struggle".

Mr Shackleton went on: "We have had 30 years of good times in Scotch whisky, we have got used to protectionist barriers coming down, but maybe opening up India will be a slower haul...and in Russia and eastern Europe you could see barriers going up."

Paul Lewis, international managing director at Scottish Enterprise,said: "We have been expanding our market presence with specialists on the ground in food and drink, three of the eight new people are in North America." He said SE offered practical support through its 29 offices in 17 countries, and ran sector-wide programmes on themes such as health and the global industry trend towards "premium and provenance".

Ross Martin, chief executive of the SCDI, said Scottish export performance was "anaemic" with only 7.5per cent of companies exporting, compared with 75per cent in Bavaria, and whisky ought to be more "loud and proud" at home about its success. He said the industry's valuing of skills-led training alongside higher education was a "strong message to the economy as a whole" .