Drinks giant Diageo last week held a meeting with the Scottish MP for Moray to discuss plans to promote the area as the home of Scotch malt whisky.

Diageo's director of corporate relations Ken Robertson met Angus Robertson MP last Friday (17 July). 

Ken Robertson told just-drinks today (21 July) that the meeting raised issues such as whether the area is accessible enough, is it promoted enough, how do people get there, what will they do when they arrive and whether there is anything that's going to keep them there.

News of the talks has emerged as Diageo faces criticism over plans to cut more than 10% of its workforce in Scotland, predominantly by closing the Johnnie Walker packaging plant in Kilmarnock.

Robertson said the MP has been in conversations "for some time" with the local council and the Highlands and Islands Enterprise, an economic regeneration arm of the government, about the plans, which were still at a "very early" stage.

"I think it is a good thing, he's asking all the right questions," said Robertson. "This is the first time we have really been involved in a conversation with him so it's very early days.

"I think quite rightly Angus had looked at Speyside and thought, this is a place that is famous around the world, all these famous names and given its fame, does it really deliver to its potential."

Robertson said the MP was clear when they met on Friday that he does not expect the industry to fund a regeneration plan.

"He is very clear that they [government] want to understand what the vision is for Speyside over the next couple of decades, who needs to have an involvement in that, both in the public and private sector, what it would need to look like and how it would be funded," he added.

Robertson said the next step would be to engage the industry and "bring people around the table."

"What I have suggested to do in the near future is to sit down with people from Visit Scotland and see how we can find some proposal, some plan that gives us an idea of what's possible up there that we can deliver this vision over the next five to ten years.

"He [Angus] is also interested in where the drinks industry plays into this. We both recognise the importance of the Scotch Whisky Association in this … and I have spoken to the SWA since to make sure they are up to date on the discussion. They have been very open minded about it."

Diageo currently owns 17 distilleries in Speyside.