ENTREPRENEURS Lord Willie Haughey and Sir Tom Hunter have welcomed the news that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon appears to have allayed fears that proposals to introduce an advertising ban, which the drinks industry fears would mean signs at distilleries and tourism attractions would have to come down, “are not in our current thinking”.

The radical proposals, currently out for consultation, have been slated by drinks companies, the hospitality industry and retailers who say they could force some businesses to close and have a devastating impact on the wider Scottish economy.

“If the First Minister sat down with a wet towel and a wee dram, she would see that this doesn’t make sense,” said Sir Tom.

Lord Haughey added: “Over the last 10-15 years, we’ve been looking at what oil means to Scotland and we’re saying it doesn’t mean anything. Now, we’re looking at what whisky and its contribution means – it is frightening that now we can be saying that, in a short period of time, it doesn’t matter.

“What kind of message does that send? It’s just bonkers. It goes back to what we’ve said before: every time you think of a policy take double the amount of time you took to come up with the idea to look at the downside of that idea.”

Promising to “keep banging on about this”, Sir Tom called on the government to “get behind business”, adding: “There has been a series of policy blunder like the rent freeze, the deposit return scheme, the ban on alcohol advertising.”

As well as banning adverts on billboards and in newspapers and magazines, the proposals also propose a ban on merchandise with alcohol branding, and an end to drinks firms’ sponsorship of sporting and cultural events.

At First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood, Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said that whisky tourism was worth £84 million annually to the Scottish economy and asked if the First Minister agreed that it would be “absurd” if distilleries had to “cover up all their signage, close their shops, stop promoting tours”.

Ms Sturgeon replied: “That the target would be painted signs on distilleries or visitor centres are not in our current thinking, and let me be very clear about that.

“There is a world of difference between a billboard outside or in the vicinity of a school and for example, a Johnnie Walker baseball cap. So, we’ve got to look pragmatically and seriously at this.”