SCOTCH whisky chiefs have voiced their "deep disappointment" over the retention of a 25 per cent tariff on single malt exports to the US.

Karen Betts, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), said it was inflicting "huge damage" on the sector.

She said exports to the US have plummeted by 30% since it came into effect and the industry is now grappling with losses totalling around £300 million.

Ms Betts accused the UK Government of being "inexplicably slow" in tackling the issue and called for negotiations to be accelerated.

The move was introduced by the US last year as part of a long-running feud over state aid for the plane maker Airbus and its American rival Boeing.

The US announced tariffs on $7.5 billion (£5.75bn) of goods – including whisky and cheese – in retaliation against EU subsidies for Airbus.

It had threatened to increase these, but has now said it will hold off, insisting it is "committed to obtaining a long-term resolution to this dispute".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly called on President Donald Trump to drop the tariffs, while blaming the EU.

UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss welcomed the US decision not to impose new tariffs on products such as gin and blended whisky, as well as lifting a tariff on shortbread.

She added: "However, the announcement does not address tariffs that already exist on goods like single malt Scotch whisky.

"These tariffs damage industry and livelihoods on both sides of the Atlantic and are in nobody’s interests. I am therefore stepping up talks with the US to remove them as soon as possible."

Karen Betts, chief executive of the SWA, said: “It’s deeply disappointing to see that the 25% tariff on single malt Scotch whisky exports to the US has been retained by the US government.  

"The tariff is inflicting huge damage on the Scotch whisky sector, with exports to the US down 30% since the tariff came into effect and the industry grappling with losses now totalling around £300 million.  

"These losses relate only to tariffs – the impact of Covid-19 has been serious and has compounded what is now a very serious situation for Scotch whisky, with some brands forced out of the market and jobs in the industry and our supply chain now at risk."

She added: "It has taken the UK government a full six months after the UK left the EU to start to tackle tariffs directly with the US government, which seems to us inexplicably slow."  

Ms Betts continued: "While we welcomed Ms Truss’ visit to the US last week, to talk directly to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, it was clearly too little, too late.

“In the meantime, the Prime Minister and Chancellor must step in to ensure that the damage to our industry is, as far as possible, mitigated. 

"Scotch whisky is a crucial part of Scotland’s economy, employing over 11,000 people and many more than that through our supply chain, in some of the UK’s most productive jobs.  

"The support promised to date - £500,000 of export promotion - is woefully inadequate compared to the support offered by the French and US governments to their national industries that have been targeted by tariffs."

Scottish trade minister Ivan McKee said: “While the removal of the tariff on sweet biscuits will be a relief to Scotland’s bakery sector, the continued extra charge on items including single malt scotch whisky, cashmere, cheese and some wool products means continued difficulties for Scottish exporters."

Scotland Secretary Alister Jack said he shared the SWA's "very real concerns".

He said: “The UK Government has petitioned the highest levels of the US administration, including the President, on this and we will continue to do so until this is dropped."