Scotch Whisky Association rues ‘missed opportunity’

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) welcomed the UK Government’s decision to freeze excise duty on spirits in Wednesday’s Budget — but argued that a cut in the excise duty would have provided “a bigger boost for consumers, the industry and public finances.”

The SWA argued the industry’s competitiveness would also have been boosted by a cut in duty.

“As a result of today’s freeze, tax — VAT and excise duty — on an average priced bottle of Scotch Whisky in the UK remains at 80%,” said the SWA.

“This means more than £10 on a bottle goes straight to the Treasury.”

Karen Betts, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said: “We welcome the freeze in excise duty on spirits, which helps support the competitiveness of Scotch — a major UK export — in uncertain times.

“My thanks go to all MPs and MSPs who have supported Scotch and helped convince the Chancellor that a second duty rise in 2017 would have hurt the industry and consumers.

“But tax on Scotch is still very high.

“£4 in every £5 spent on Scotch goes to the Treasury, and we believe this is a missed opportunity.

“We believe a cut would have delivered more revenues to the government as well as underscoring government support for an important UK manufacturing industry, which supports 40,000 jobs across the UK.”

Diageo GB managing director Charles Ireland said: “The duty freeze provides some respite for Britain’s drinkers, although taxes on spirits remain amongst the highest of any major economy in the world.

“We have been greatly encouraged by the fantastic support of Parliamentarians from all parties, especially Ruth Davidson, David Mundell and the other Scottish Conservative MPs, who have called for a fairer deal for Scotch and spirits … an industry that generates £5 billion of exports and employs 50,000 people.

“We now repeat our call for a review of the alcohol duty system to deliver fairness for Scotch whisky, which is exactly the kind of unique British product the UK needs to thrive after Brexit.”