JOBS in the Scotch whisky industry may be put at risk and sales could drop by a fifth within a year due to new tariffs on exports to the US, it is claimed.

Karen Betts, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, criticised the 25 per cent penalty levied against single malts from today.

Ms Betts said: “Ultimately, jobs could be at risk.”

The United States proposed the tariffs on £6.1 billion of EU exports in retaliation to the bloc’s subsidies to plane-maker Airbus.

European cheeses, olives and aircraft have also been targeted by the penalties, which will be paid by importers when goods are being brought across the US border.

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It is estimated America represents 10.8% of the global volume of Scotch whisky and 22% of global value.

Ms Bets also said the penalty move "means that Scotch whisky is now paying for over 60% of the UK’s tariff bill for the subsidies it provided to Airbus, eight times more than the next most valuable UK product on the tariff list".

“That single malts are being targeted is particularly damaging for smaller producers, who stand to be the hardest hit."

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Scotch whisky has been imported tariff-free to the US for the last 25 years.

“This move undermines decades of hard work and investment which has seen Scotch whisky sales boom in the US. It will impact both our industry and its supply chain.” The industry could lose as much as 20% of sales to the US, worth £1bn - in 12 months.