Hudghton (Greens/EFA) - Mr President, as a Scots MEP I have an obvious interest in any regulation that relates to whisky. However, we also have other national drinks, including a very significant economic interest in vodka and gin distillation and bottling. The debates in which I have taken part in the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection have been interesting, at times heated, and I have argued strongly for a flexible definition of 'vodka'. Some say that spirits should be treated the same, but vodka and whisky are not the same, and this proposal simply has to recognise that fact. Vodka has traditionally been made from different ingredients in different areas; Scotch whisky is a product of centuries of traditional practice, by contrast. The first reference to whisky in Scotland was in Exchequer records in 1494/95. The first taxes were imposed in 1644. Some spirits have traditionally been rounded off using sugar. Scotch whisky has not, and this regulation must not allow that to happen. Protecting the term 'Scotch Whisky', as well as the methods of production and the geographic definition, is extremely important for Scotland for obvious reasons. Some details still have to be underlined in the technical files, and I look forward to that. However, this first-reading compromise – the product of lengthy and very heated exchanges – is something that, in the spirit of that compromise, I am now prepared to accept, and I hope that the House will accept it tomorrow.

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