Diageo Scotland

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Alcohol badge.jpg This article is part of the Spinwatch public health oriented Alcohol Portal project.

Diageo is one of the largest global alcohol traders. Diageo Scotland claim to be able trace their Scottish origins back to 1627, despite only forming as a company in 1997, following the merger of Grand Metropolitan and Guinness. The company cites the history of the many firms it has acquired since becoming a powerful global trader.

Company records show that in Scotland the company has four holding companies, thirty-eight subsidiaries and have 2842 employees in Scotland.[1] Diageo are the most prominent force in the scotch whisky industry. It owns twenty seven malt whisky distilleries, two grain distilleries, shares in a third, and four maltings[2]. Malts.com is a website devoted to raising the profile of Diageo's malt whisky. According to them, the firm owns and controls forty percent of Scotland's malts.[3]. This is reflected in their domination of the Scotch Whisky Association.

The firm claims, "The spirit of Scotland has run through Diageo’s global business for almost 400 years and today we remain as committed as ever to growing the important role Scotland plays in our business" [4]. This is a somewhat controversial statement as Diageo plan to restructure their operations in Scotland with the loss of over 900 jobs at their Kilmarnock plant. The closure was announced in 2009, the same year that the Scottish Government announced plans to introduce the most ambitious alcohol and public health bill ever seen in Europe.

Corporate philanthropy

Alcohol companies in Scotland have a long tradition of indirect marketing and to this day can be seen sponsoring and supporting grassroots initiatives. Diageo devotes a lot of energy into this form of corporate social responsibility or indirect marketing. They support a numerous initiatives ranging from environmental projects to involvement in public health strategies. Below are some of the places we can find Diageo in Scotland:

  • Fife Constabulary's Alcohol liaison team's car is paid for by Diageo [5]
  • The Moray Division of Grampian Police also rely on Diageo to sponsor two police vehicles for their Community Safety Unit [6]
  • Boozebusters is a collaborative educational programme between Diageo and Fife Council, Fife Police and NHS Fife. Secondary school pupils aged between thirteen and fifteen from all of the region's secondary schools learn about alcohol issues through a series of workshops and theatre productions [7]
  • Working in partnership with East Ayrshire Council Diageo funded a community safety and responsible drinking leaflet and calendar. The publication was distributed to 45,000 homes. It was distributed in November 2007 to 45,000 houses in East Ayrshire.[8]
  • Fife, Tayside, Grampian and Central Scotland Fire and Police areas in Scotland work in partnership with Diageo on the ‘Safe Drive Stay Alive’ website an educational resource for young drivers on all aspects of safe driving.[9]
  • Alcohol Awareness Week is the outcome of the work of the Scottish Government and Alcohol Industry Partnership and Diageo are heavily involved.


The corporation played a prominent role in the 2005 G8 Gleneagles Summit, unsurprisingly given their level of involvement within Scottish political circles (See Diageo for details of their activities outwith Scotland and Corporate Watch report, 'Bringing the G8 Home: Corporate Involvement in and around the G8 in Scotland 2005). Diageo representatives participate in a wide range of governmental activities including membership on a number of groups and committees across the globe in Scotland these include:


In May 2012 the British Institute of Innkeeping Scotland (BII) hosted their annual awards dinner sponsored by Diageo. An independent judging panel had decided that BrewDog should win the award for bar operator of the year. However, BrewDog were not announced as the winners. According to James Watt, one of BrewDog's founders, as the winners were announced one of the judging team sitting close by said ‘this simply cannot be, the independent judging panel voted for BrewDog as clear winners of the award’. [10] The confusion continued when the "new winners" Behind the Wall from Falkirk refused to accept the award, quite rightly, because BrewDog's name was engraved on the trophy and had clearly been the judges choice.

The explanation for this bizarre behaviour has allowed BrewDog to create a huge amount of publicity firstly on social media sites, particularly Twitter, with the story gathering such momentum that it has featured widely in the national media. Apparently someone from Diageo Scotland threatened to withdraw any sponsorship future events if BrewDog was declared the winner. The BrewDog blog gives details of Kenny Mitchell, Chair of BII Scotland's apology to BrewDog:

‘We are all ashamed and embarrassed about what happened. The awards have to be an independent process and BrewDog were the clear winner’
‘Diageo (the main sponsor) approached us at the start of the meal and said under no circumstances could the award be given to BrewDog. They said if this happened they would pull their sponsorship from all future BII events and their representatives would not present any of the awards on the evening.’
We were as gobsmacked as you by Diageo’s behaviour. We made the wrong decision under extreme pressure. We should have stuck to our guns and gave the award to BrewDog.‘[11]

Diageo apologised unreservedly after the embarrassing incident caused a social media storm which saw them and BrewDog trend on twitter for most of Wednesday the 10th May.

Current Directors



  1. FAME Database Diageo Scotland accessed 25th November 2009 (subscription required)
  2. Diageo Scotland Website About Diageo accessed 25th November 2009
  3. Malts.com About Us accessed 26th November 2009
  4. Diageo Scotland website Our History accessed 25th November 2009
  5. BBC Scotland, Wednesday, 22 November 2006 Drinks firm promotes safety drive accessed 25th November 2009
  6. Diageo Scotland Website Our activity in Scotland accessed 26th November 2009
  7. DELTA Website Boozebusters accessed 25th November 2009
  8. Diageo Scotland Website Our activity in Scotland accessed 26th November 2009
  9. Diageo Scotland Website Our activity in Scotland accessed 26th November 2009
  10. BrewDog Blog, 9th May 2012, Diageo Screw BrewDog accessed 9th May 2012
  11. BrewDog Blog, 9th May 2012, Diageo Screw BrewDog accessed 9th May 2012
  12. FAME Database Diageo Scotland accessed 25th November 2009 (subscription required)