A TRADE deal with Australia could 'slash' tariffs on Scotch Whisky and boost the union, the UK trade secretary has claimed.

Liz Truss said the UK Government is actively negotiating for the five per cent tariff on whisky exports to be removed as part of the controversial deal.

Australia is the eighth biggest market for Scotch whisky exports, worth £113 million last year and the industry supports more than 10,000 jobs in Scotland.

The Trade secretary has suggested a deal could help other Scottish sectors including financial services, manufacturing, pharmaceutical and food and drink.

The UK Government has come under fire for the proposed deal, with concerns raised by farmers that opening up the UK to imports of low-priced lamb and beef from Australia would hinder their businesses.

However Ms Truss said an agreement would benefit Scots.

She said: "A UK-Australia trade agreement would be significant for Scotch whisky and the Union.

"Part of the promise of leaving the EU was striking deals with countries well beyond Europe, opening new opportunities for iconic British goods like Scotch overseas.

“I am fighting hard to get these tariffs cut and secure a deal that benefits producers in Scotland and helps the whole of the UK.”

In a sign of support, Minister for Exports Graham Stuart will visit Glenkinchie Distillery, near Edinburgh, today to discuss the benefits of a potential Australia deal for the whisky industry.

The UK Government claims that a deal with Australia would be the first in a series of "next generation" deals post-Brexit.

However the SNP has condemned Ms Truss's comments, saying that Scots should not be "fooled" by the Tory's "Brexit rhetoric".

Drew Hendry MP, the party's trade spokesman, said: "People will not be fooled by the Tory government's Brexit rhetoric given its record on selling out our vital sectors in pursuit of deals.

"It was not that long ago that our world-class Scotch Whisky industry was paying a heavy price in tariffs due to Tory inaction. We all want to see more trade, however the reality is that the Tory government's extreme post-Brexit plans fail Scotland's vital industries.

"Distilleries have told me that they now face a big gap in their exports due to the EU market contracting drastically as a direct result of Brexit and new red tape, and that the loss cannot even come close to being compensated by these deals.

"We have already witnessed our seafood industry being sold out, and we know the devastating impact the proposed Australia deal will have on Scottish farmers and crofters - threatening the viability of Scottish lamb and beef farming and undercutting the sector.

"The Tory government has proven time and time again that they cannot be trusted to stand up for Scotland's interests."