BREXIT poses a grave threat to the Scotch whisky industry putting thousands of jobs at risk, according to newly-published research about the impact of leaving the EU.

The sector will be “particularly vulnerable”, it was claimed by the GMB union – with a “post-Brexit trade carve-up” leading to the ripping up of trade agreements.

Tory ministers were also accused of "complacency" and "ignorance" about the industry.

The GMB claimed that thousands of jobs in bottling operations would be at risk. And that Scotland's “thriving industry" could become a "historic tourist trail" for wealthy American and Japanese tourists.

The sector, which employs 10,000 people across Scotland and is worth over £1.2 billion in exports, will face devastating consequences, the union claimed.

The GMB highlighted the claims in a motion to the forthcoming Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) conference.

The draft motion is likely to be debated at the STUC conference in Aviemore in April.

GMB Scotland senior organiser Louise Gilmour called for a separate deal to protect Scotch whisky ahead of Brexit. She said ministers must "bring forward protective measures to defend our economic and employment interests".

"There is a lazy assumption out there that whisky and spirits will OK." she said. “Our whisky and spirits manufacturing industry is particularly vulnerable.

"It is the jewel in the crown of Scotland’s food and beverages sector – our second most valuable export market to the EU – and trade with the EU market alone generates £1.2 billion for the economy and supports 12,800 jobs.

“But we fear there is either complacency or ignorance in UK government circles about employment in Scotland’s whisky and spirits industry. We don't want Scotland's drinks industry to become a historical trail for wealthy American and Japanese tourists."

The Scottish Government backed the call from the GMB. A spokesperson said: “Brexit is by far the biggest threat to Scotland’s food and drink sector and that is why we have always been clear that remaining within the European Union – and the world’s largest single market – is the best option for our future."

A UK Government spokesman said: “We are determined to open up new markets around the world for the very best whisky our distillers have to offer – and to drive down any tariffs they face.

"By strengthening ties with key partners, identifying new markets and tackling tariffs, the UK Government is paving the way towards an even brighter future for Scotland’s whisky industry.”

A spokesman for the Scotch Whisky Association said the industry was prepared to deal with any challenges posed by Brexit.

He said: “Scotch Whisky can only be produced in Scotland. Brexit will not change that.

“There is no complacency in the industry, only determination to deal with the realities of Brexit, which undoubtedly presents significant challenges to the industry," and that the industry "would be happy to meet with the GMB to discuss their concerns”.