A recent plenary vote in the European Parliament, on new rules for spirit drinks definition and labelling, was an important step in achieving a secure future for the Scotch Whisky industry, as well as safeguarding Scotland's extensive interests in vodka and gin production and bottling. As a member of the Parliament's Internal Market committee I have been campaigning for the EU to continue recognition, and improve legal protection, for both the term 'Scotch Whisky' as a distinctive brand and the traditional production methods used.
The directive could have gone further, but I believe we've achieved a good deal that will help provide a secure future for the industry. In particular, the name 'Scotch Whisky' will be protected as a brand and we will also have the opportunity to protect use of the name in the Gaelic language. The new rules will mean that traditional practices of producing whisky - which date back centuries - and the world class high standards of the Scotch Whisky industry will have the recognition, and protection, they deserve.
This is good news for Scotland and our whisky producers and I'm pleased to have been able to support it. I look forward to having early discussions with colleagues in Edinburgh on extending protection to the Gaelic language version of Scotch Whisky - uisge-beatha Albannach - as a distinctive brand.
In the Parliament we have had ongoing negotiations on this matter for at least a year and I am delighted at the result of the vote. The vote also included provisions in relation to vodka production and the compromise we achieved in Strasbourg means that Scots vodka producers can continue to use the term vodka for their product.
This definition has been the subject of intense debate and there has been a great deal of lobbying from Polish and Nordic vodka producing nations who wanted to restrict use of the term to only cover vodka made from potatoes or grain. We've secured a common sense compromise that has the support of our industry and the majority of MEPs. It's now over to EU governments to sign up in the coming weeks.
The past month has also seen Scotland's prime showcase for the agricultural industry, the Royal Highland Show, take place. I attended the event alongside colleagues from the Scottish Parliament Stewart Stevenson MSP, Aileen Campbell MSP and Alasdair Allan MSP. We spent a very informative and worthwhile day speaking to those at the heart of the industry. Since the SNP
Government was elected in Scotland the sense of optimism in the air has been palpable and this was certainly the case at Ingliston.
All SNP colleagues who attended the show this year will I am sure agree that many of those who went to showcase their produce welcomed us with open arms. As the new Government we have promised to recognise the vital role the agricultural and fisheries sectors play in Scotland, and Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead has made it very clear, with a series of announcements, that we now have a Government that will at last stand up for Scotland's vital rural assets. I now look forward to the UK Government finally realising that we will not be ignored in the all important representation of our food production industries in EU Councils of Ministers.