Ukraine crisis may hit Argyll’s whisky and salmon exports

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Finance minister Kate Forbes has urged all Scottish exporters to stop trading with Russia following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ms Forbes, the SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said companies had a ‘moral responsibility’ to boycott Russia despite the financial implications it may cause them.

Tens of millions of Scottish whisky and salmon exports – produced by two of Argyll’s largest industries – may be lost.

The Scotch Whisky Association said Scotland directly exported around £28million worth of whisky to Russia last year, the equivalent of 42m bottles. Ukraine meanwhile received £3.3m of whisky.

Scottish salmon has been banned in Russia since 2014 in retaliation against EU sanctions after it annexed Crimea. Ukraine is the 16th largest export market for Scottish salmon as 2,777 tonnes of fish, with a value of £2.5m, was sold to the country in 2021.

Tavish Scott, the chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said: ‘The impact of this despicable act of aggression will reverberate throughout the global economy but our only thought is for the safety of the people of Ukraine and we hope that democracy and peace can prevail.’

Scottish Government data showed that £245 million of goods and services were sold to Russia in 2019. However, the Russian market is markedly smaller than Scotland’s biggest, the US, which stands at £6 billion.

Ms Forbes told the PA news agency: ‘We all have a moral duty right now to consider what else we can do to impact on the Russian economy, cripple Putin’s economy and ultimately try to stop at Putin’s aggression in relation to Ukraine.

‘So every Scottish business should be considering carefully what more it might be able to do.

‘I am not disputing that there won’t be some short-term economic pain as a result of that, that is in no doubt.

‘But no short-term economic pain compares to the pain that is being experienced by Ukrainian households right now who are either fighting for their lives or fleeing for their lives.’

Speaking at the launch of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation, Ms Forbes said economic sanctions ‘need to be further strengthened’ and called for any Scottish businesses operating in Russia to cease trading there.

Meanwhile SNP Westminster group leader Ian Blackford, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, criticised Prime Minister Boris Johnson for allowing a ‘sewer of dirty Russian money’ to run through Britain because oligarchs had donated to the Conservative party.

Mr Johnson replied: ‘We do need to stop corrupt Russian money in London and every other financial capital.

‘That’s why we have already taken the steps that we have taken but we are going much further to uncloak the true owners of Russia companies and Russian properties in this country. And high time. No country is doing more than the UK to tackle this issue.’