PUBLIC thirst for craft beer has helped Scotland’s breweries grow by 230% in less than a decade, figures show.

New data from the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) shows more makers are tapping into the booming business – despite a long-term global fall in beer consumption.

The rate of expansion in the sector outstrips that of England, which has experienced lower growth in breweries of 160% in the period since 2010.

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There are now 115 breweries across the country, of which more than four-fifths are micro-breweries.

In its focus on brewing and distilling in Scotland, which was released yesterday, the parliamentary body said: “Globally, beer consumption has been falling for decades.

“However, this has not dampened the significant brewery start-up rate, responding to consumers choosing to drink more expensive, specialised beers.

“Scotland’s craft breweries have flourished over recent years with a plethora of new breweries entering the market.

“Year-on-year over the period 2010 to 2018, the number of breweries has increased. This rapid period of expansion has resulted in the beer manufacturing business base increasing by 229% over the eight-year period.”

While just four local authority areas contained breweries in 2010, now half – 16 of the 32 separate regions – are home to at least one.

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Stating that microbreweries now account for more than 80% of the country’s brewing business base, the paper read: “Both urban and rural areas have benefited from the explosive growth of the sector.

Edinburgh and Highland local authority areas have the highest intensity of brewing activity in Scotland.”

Breweries had an average turnover of £271,310 in 2018 – lower than the average business turnover of £673,000.

But 10% of breweries had sales levels worth more than £1 million, while just over half had turnover levels that were below £100,000.

On distilling, the paper reveals that there were 475 enterprises in the UK – a massive jump from the 90 listed in 2010.

The paper said: “In terms of distilling it shouldn’t be surprising that Scotland is leading the way.

“Scotland is the whisky capital of the world and has hundreds of years of distillery expertise. And it is not only whisky that’s growing, gin production is also prospering.”

There are currently more than 60 distilleries producing gin north of the Border, with more than 110 varieties of Scottish gin available.

All but 10 of the country’s local authorities have a distilling business presence as the sector’s geographic spread increases.

The businesses are so strong that nine in 10 of all distilling jobs in Britain are based in Scotland.

Employment levels in the industry are said to have been “relatively stable” over the past nine years, with the head count varying between 7000 and 8000.

Average turnover across all Scottish distilleries was approximately £5.3m each in 2018, according to the report, which put Gross Value Added (GVA) at basic prices for Scotland’s “spirits and wines” at £3.9bn in 2015.

The spirits industry was found to contribute approximately 3% to total Scottish GDP.