WILLIAM Grant & Sons, the Scotch whisky distiller, has retained its status as Scotland’s most profitable family business.

The maker of single malts Glenfiddich and The Balvenie has emerged top of the pile in the 2019 edition of the Scottish Family Business Top 100.

Based on the most up to date information available for Scottish firms at Companies House, the report is compiled by consultancy Family Business United, which declared that the findings again demonstrate the importance of family-owned businesses to the Scottish economy.

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The third version of its report found that Scotland’s top 100 turned over a combined £20 billion, generated £1.3bn in profits and employed more than 112,000 people during the period under review. The combined turnover was up 16.3 per cent on the previous year, while overall profits from firms in the top 100 increased by 18.1%.

Dufftown-based William Grant, which has played a leading role in the revival of Scottish gin with the creation of the Hendrick’s brand, was top for earnings after posting a pre-tax profit of £304 million on turnover of nearly £1.2 billion in its most recent accounts.

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The distiller, owned by the Grant Gordon family, kept Arnold Clark at bay in second place. The car dealer, established by the late Sir Arnold Clark, made profits of £106.6m million on turnover of £3.9bn over the period.

Coming in third place was The Edinburgh Woollen Mill, the Borders-based retail group, following profits of £81.2m for the period covered by the report.

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And making up the top five was sawmill firm James Jones & Sons in fourth, and Community Wind Power (Holdings), which operates wind farms around Scotland, in fifth.

DC Thomson, Ian Macleod Distillers, Robertson Group Holdings, City Facilities Management and Klondyke Fishing Company occupied positions six to 10 in profits terms,

The third edition of the report also provided rankings for Scotland’s top 10 revenue generators and top 10 employers by headcount.

Arnold Clark was the top revenue generator, with the rest of the top five made up by William Grant, The Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Lord Willie Haughey’s City Facilities Management and Park’s of Hamilton, the car dealer and coach firm majority-owned by Rangers investor Douglas Park.

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Gorbals-based City Facilities Management was found to again to be Scotland’s biggest family-owned employer. The company, which in recent years has expanded into Australia, Asia, France and the US, had a headcount of 11,992 over the period. It was followed in second place by Arnold Clark with 11,427 members of staff, The Edinburgh Woollen Mill (10,912), Castle View Ventures (7,125) and Farmfoods (3,864 staff).

Other major employers included Robertson Group Holdings (2,640), William Grant (2,371), The Malcolm Group (2,157), Forth Holdings (2,154) and The Wemyss Development Company (2,116).

Asked to comment on the findings of the report, Paul Andrews, founder and managing director of Family Business United, said a “big message” was that Scotland’s top 100 family firms are “obviously doing something right and continuing to grow”, despite the uncertain political backdrop.

“Whilst other family firms and other businesses may be struggling, they (top 100) are becoming ever more a powerful force in Scotland,” he said.

He also highlighted that there is a “diverse mix” of family firms in Scotland, with the country’s traditional strengths in sectors such as whisky and food complemented by firms coming through in areas such as in pharmaceuticals. “There is a nice pattern that has been emerging over the past year or two,” Mr Andrews said.

Mr Andrews also observed that Scotland’s leading family firms are “clearly investing for the future”, while being aware of the continuing uncertainty around Brexit. “They are still taking a long-term view, and making the decisions they need to in order to survive.”

He added: “The mix, geographically, is incredibly strong, and we have to be cognisant of the impact some of these businesses have on their local communities. Walkers Shortbread, for example, employ more people than are available in the workforce in Aberlour. It’s a massive impact in terms of wealth creation, jobs, employment, [and] income generation.”