THE SCOTTISH whisky industry could go from the UK's biggest success to an "absolute disaster", a trade union chief has warned.

Gary Smith, head of GMB Scotland, said the Scottish economy was "in a terrible state" before the pandemic, but added that a transfer of powers to Holyrood over employment would aid in economic recovery.

Speaking at the Westminster Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee this morning, Mr Smith warned that tarrifs from America, and the potential for a "botched Brexit" could destroy the industry which has been one of the country's biggest successes in terms of exports..

He said: "Whisky has been a huge success story for Scotland in the UK. We need support for the industry now. We need to tackle the Trump tariffs, because it's had an impact on exports to the industry, and that will feed through to investment and jobs.

"We are facing the Covid crisis and work paralysis in the hospitality sector, the Trump tariffs and if there is a botched Brexit we could turn the success story of whisky into an absolute disaster in terms of job creation and protection.

"We need action from the UK Government to get those tariffs removed."

Smith was asked by the SNP MP Alan Brown whether a change in the law around employment could help the economy, to which he replied: "We have long supported devolution of employment law. I think for all the criticism that follows the Scottish Government, the level of engagement with the trade unions and the commitment to working with us is far better in Scotland than it has been elsewhere.

"The Fair Work agenda that the Scottish Government has is something we could build upon, but will have to be underpinned by the devolution of employment laws."

On renewables jobs, Mr Smith slated the UK Government for allowing contracts for Scottish projects to go abroad, citing the example of the Seagreen windfarm in Fife specifically.

He explained: I listen to a government minister this week talking about the most recent offshore wind project Seagreen project, and he said it's going to kickstart Scotland's clean recovery.

"Let me put this simply - there's 114 major structures that are part of that project which support turbines. 110 of those structures will be built in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai and Denmark.

"The green jobs revolution is happening anywhere but Scotland and the UK.

"The windfarm project is a few miles off the coast of Fife in Scotland. You can see where the project would happen from Fife. The big structures for that project are going to be produced in Indonesia, and China, shipped halfway around the world to be plonked off the coast of Scotland. And meanwhile, on the same Fife coastline, we have yards that are lying empty.

"Fabrication yards on the Isle of Lewis that desperately need work and in working class communities in Fife that are lying empty while we export our green jobs of the future abroad. And in fact, I would go so far as to say that the only expertise that the UK has in the renewables sector is about how we export our jobs.

"We cannot hope to export jobs, and import an economic recovery. The issue of renewables and energy desperately needs to be addressed for workers in Scotland, and indeed across the whole of the UK."

The trade union chief also issued dire warnings over the oil and gas sector, saying that "Scotland's economy was in a terrible state before Covid" and explained: "Of course the problems in the economy have been exacerbated by the decline of oil and gas, and I don't think anybody should believe for a moment that the North Sea oil and gas sector is going to bounce back in the way it has in the past.

"We were promised there would be a just transition from oil and gas, yet the truth is our renewables industry, our green jobs in the future, have invariably been exported abroad."