Action by the UK Government to protect the £5 billion Scotch whisky industry amid Brexit uncertainty has been demanded by a union.

GMB has written to Scottish Secretary David Mundell calling for measures to safeguard the estimated 160,000 jobs it says are linked to the industry.

The union fears current trade agreements brokered through the European Union (EU) could become subject to harsh tariffs in future.

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Louise Gilmour, GMB Scotland organiser, said: "Our members want assurances that the government will be doing all it can to ensure the whisky sector can thrive, creating much-needed new jobs by securing good deals with new markets.

"Quite simply, we cannot do without this industry."

Figures released last month by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) found the industry supports more than 40,000 jobs across Britain.

At least 7,000 of these are in rural areas where other work can be hard to find.

A further 120,000 jobs are connected with whisky production and exporting, GMB claimed.

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Figures show the Scotch whisky sector directly and indirectly contributes £4.7 billion to the economy, much of which comes from exports.

Whisky is covered by World Trade Organisation agreements, meaning exports will not be subject to tariffs inside the EU.

However, 10% of exports - amounting to £400 million - go to markets like Colombia, Mexico and South Korea where trade agreements were arranged through the EU, GMB said.

"Following Brexit these lucrative exports could become subject to punishing tariffs," the union said.

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GMB is urging Mr Mundell to give reassurances to the whisky industry similar to those it gave to Nissan.

The car manufacturer announced in October it was investing in production of new Qashqai and X-Trail models at Sunderland after receiving government assurances that EU withdrawal would not affect the plant's competitiveness.

Ms Gilmour said: "Whisky is a massive success story for Scotland - and the UK - but we need the government to back us up in the months and years ahead.

"Westminster was quick to pledge support for Nissan - which is also vital for the economy - but is frankly dwarfed by the size of the whisky industry.

"We need parity for workers in our whisky industry and the same guarantees that were given to Nissan.

"Tens of thousands of jobs depend on whisky and the government needs to take action to protect our members' livelihoods post-Brexit."