The remarkable strength of Scotland's drinks industry, particularly its whisky distilleries, has been dramatically illustrated by a largely unreported jobs boom which began at the start of this year and has been gathering pace since.
Newly released figures from Scottish Recruitment Specialist the Brightwork Group show that it is placing 1000 temporary workers a week in the sector to help companies cope with increasing international demand.
The company, which is based in Glasgow and Edinburgh with offices in Aberdeen, is forecasting that this figure will rise to 1200 workers a week by the late summer - and the increase is despite the closure of Diageo's plant in Kilmarnock.
Brian Cairney, head of the Drinks Division at Brightwork, said: "We have had a really successful first quarter, with figures holding up well despite the loss to the industry of the Kilmarnock facility.
"Scotland's drinks sector as a whole is proving to be reliable and sustainable and certainly does not share the atmosphere of gloom and doom which is pervading the rest of the Scottish economy."
The value of the drinks industry to Scotland's economy lies largely in its strong export capability - whisky sales abroad soared to a record £4.23 billion in 2011, an increase in value of 23%.
Demand has exceeded all expectations, with whisky sales in the US, the biggest single market by value, up 31% to £655 million, and in France, the biggest market by volume, up by more than 25% to £535 million.
The drinks division was one of a number of strong business areas which contributed to the Brightwork Group's record £24m in sales in the year to December 2011, with after tax profits up to £750,000. The company has increased its staffing from 13 in 2006 to 44 now, with nine full time and two part time staff dedicated to the Drinks Division.
Mr Cairney said: "The volumes of white spirit as well as brown is really very encouraging in an industry which is such a vital pillar of the Scottish economy.
"Some markets have seen a decline in whisky exports, including Spain and South Korea, but there was growth of more than 40% to Brazil, Taiwan and Singapore, which serves as a distribution point for much of East Asia.
"Despite the current economic climate, Scotch continues to appeal to consumers in countries such as the US and France and is being enjoyed by younger professionals in newer markets in Asia and Latin America.
"The Scotch Whisky Association has also made great strides in breaking down trade barriers and strengthening legal protections for the Scotch brand in places like India and Turkey."
Brightwork, which specialises in supplying high quality labour in the packaging, warehousing, distillation and spirit supply side of the industry, represents all the major players in the sector and covers a wide geographical spread, including the northern and island distilleries.
Group Managing Director Anthony Knight who, with Group Chief Operating Officer Charles Turner, created the company out of a management buyout in 2006 said: "The temporary employment market has always been more resilient and robust than the permanent, although we expect that to pick up as Scotland continues to buck the UK economic trend."
Turner and Knight now take the view that Brightwork is as well positioned as it can be to withstand further recessionary tremors. The company is now debt free after three years in which all profits were ploughed back into the business.
Mr Cairney added: "Until now, Brightwork's Drinks Division has concentrated its resources on the Scottish drinks industry and has built up a valuable network of contacts and relationships with its multinational customers.
Our expansion strategy, however, must now take wider markets into account and look at opportunities within Ireland and mainland Europe. Our customers work comfortably across international borders and there is no reason to suspect that we cannot do the same.
"We are perfectly happy to seek the relevant guidance on employment law and related issues in other countries, in order to take our proven package to the drinks industry across international borders.”
For further information, contact Charles Turner or Anthony Knight at Brightwork, 211 St Vincent Street, Glasgow G2 5QY. Tel: 0141 272 8100. Fax: 0141 272 8101. email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or 20 Stafford Street, Edinburgh EH3 7BD. Tel: 0131 275 8000. Fax: 0131 275 8001.email: email@example.com W: www.brightworkltd.com