A FORMER Scotland rugby international is behind plans to open the first whisky distillery in the Borders.

Finlay Calder, who won 34 caps representing Scotland from 1986-91, has been named project director of the £40 million plan which has been put before the local authority for consideration.

Edinburgh-based Mossburn Distillers Limited wants to transform the former Jedforest Hotel, three miles south of Jedburgh, into a distillery and bottling plant, creating a number of jobs in the area.

The distillery could be the second Mossburn project to open in Scotland in the coming months after the company unveiled plans on Wednesday for a £5m investment in a new distillery on the isle of Skye, creating eight jobs.

Chief executive Neil Mathieson said that the firm had entered into a 12-week consultation with Scottish Borders Council and had submitted plans detailing how many jobs would be created and how many bottles produced.

However, he said the scheme was still very much in the planning stage and that details would be made public when the proposals were finalised.

Mr Mathieson said: "We have had full meetings with the council and we have discussed where we want to do the project. In the meetings we have shown them how many bottles we would like to produce and how many people we would employ, but it is still at an early stage and we will make a fuller announcement once things have been decided."

He said the location had been picked because it offered an opportunity to establish a new whisky in an area where the drink has not been produced before.

Mr Mathieson added: "We want to be original. I have nothing against Islay or Speyside, but does Scotland really need another distillery up there?"

The company invited local politicians and other interested parties to a meeting last night in nearby Glendouglas village hall to outline their plans.

Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP Michael Moore said: "This is clearly intriguing and potentially very exciting. Anyone wishing to invest that kind of money in our area would, hopefully, be good news bringing with it jobs as well as investment."

Jedburgh Community Council chairman Richard Gordon added: "If it does come to fruition then it would be fantastic news - not just for Jedburgh but for the whole of the Borders."

The eight-bedroom Jedforest Hotel was up for sale for £550,000 but was recently taken off the market. The nearest whisky distillery to the Borders is the Glenkinchie Distillery based at Pencaitland, East Lothian.

The new Mossburn distillery proposed for Skye would be only the second on the Hebridean island, and would be based in a listed early 19th century farm steading at Torabhaig on Skye's southeast coast.

The Torabhaig site formed part of the late Sir Iain Noble's lands of Fearann Eilean Iarmain and Sir Iain's widow, Lucilla Noble, has been invited to join the Board of Torabhaig Distillery Limited.

Meanwhile, Argyll-based craft brewery Fyne Ales has turned the first soil on a £2 million expansion plan on their farm, which will treble turnover and meet growing demand for the company's range of award-winning craft beers.

The first expansion will see production increase to 180 barrels a week, with space available to boost production to 120 barrels per day - the equivalent of 36,000 pints - in five years' time.