Reports have suggested the Treasury will hike duty on whisky by 15% when chancellor Jeremy Hunt gives his autumn statement
By Bill Heaney
Politicians are calling on the UK Government to rule out any further duty increase on Scotch whisky ahead of the chancellor’s autumn statement.
Reports have suggested the Treasury will hike duty on whisky by 15% when chancellor Jeremy Hunt gives his autumn statement on Wednesday.
The SNP claims this will cost the sector around £100m and contradicts the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto commitment, which pledged to “ensure our tax system is supporting Scottish whisky and gin producers and protecting 42,000 jobs supported by Scotch across the UK”.
Whisky is the world’s number one internationally traded spirit, with exports reaching £6.2 billion in 2022 – accounting for 25% of all UK food and drink exports, 77% of Scottish food and drink exports, and supporting more than 10,000 jobs in Scotland.
Richard Thomson MP, the SNP’s business and trade spokesperson, said: “Once again, we are witnessing Scotland’s fantastic whisky industry being disproportionately impacted by a UK Government we did not vote for.
“The UK Government continues to squeeze the life out of the Scotch whisky industry – an industry that plays a pivotal role in Scotland’s economy.
“They are only just coming to terms with the 10.1% duty increase from the spring Budget. Increasing it to 15% will rightly infuriate the sector further.
“As the world’s biggest international traded spirit, the UK Government should instead be focusing on investing and protecting the long-term future of the Scottish whisky industry.
“For too long, the UK Treasury has reaped the rewards of Scotland’s whisky sector.
“Only with the powers of independence can we harness the full potential of this industry, and fully support our wonderful communities who deliver huge sums of money for Scotland’s economy.”
A Treasury spokesman said Scotch whisky, which at the Chivas Brothers Kilmalid plant in Dumbarton, pictured left, employs around 500 people, is a hugely successful export industry.
He said: “Scotch has received nine cuts or freezes at the last ten budgets.
“We have also acted to remove punitive tariffs on Scotch whisky imposed on the US market and are committed to protecting the interests of Scotch whisky in trading agreements, ensuring that they face lower tariffs for export, and that the unique characteristics and global reputation of Scotch is protected.”
Graeme Littlejohn, Scotch Whisky Association director of strategy, said: “This welcome support from the SNP confirms the clear political consensus which has formed over a duty freeze for Scotch whisky in this week’s autumn statement.
“The chancellor Jeremy Hunt should listen to those voices, which include Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, who has called for a freeze on spirits until at least August next year.
“The tax burden on Scotch whisky is not sustainable, and the new duty system introduced in August has only made the situation for distillers worse. The chancellor has a chance to support Scotch on Wednesday, and the industry will be watching closely.”