Diageo, the world’s biggest producer of Scotch whisky, is lobbying the Scottish and UK governments ahead of September’s referendum on independence for Scotland to counter “anything that could add complexity and burden to the business”.

Ivan Menezes, chief executive, said he was not engaged in picking sides. But he said: “Scotland is hugely important to our company. We’ve got this fantastic business in Scotland which we want to protect.”

In his first comments on the issue, he said: “We have to look at our relationship with the European Union, trade, currency and things that we don’t want, that would add complexity and burden to the business.”

Mr Menezes said he respected the rights of the Scottish people to decide their constitutional structure and said he was working with both the Scottish and UK governments “to ensure a favourable outcome”.

He would “make clear what conditions we want for this wonderful industry to thrive”, adding: “Don’t mess with it would be the way [forward].”

Diageo is the world’s largest spirits group, with sales last year of £11bn. It depends on Scotch whisky for 30 per cent of its sales and operating profits.

It is in the midst of a £1bn investment programme in Scotland aimed at increasing production in the face of rising global demand.

Pernod Ricard, the French group which is the world’s second-biggest Scotch producer, has so far remained tight-lipped about the issue.

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