Scotch Whisky launches campaign against 75% tax

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has launched a campaign to “press the UK government to re-think the decision to increase duty on Scotch Whisky and other spirits by 10.1% from August.”

The SWA said its #KeepTheCommitment campaign will ask the UK government to uphold the pledge made to the Scotch industry in 2019 to “ensure the tax system is supporting Scottish whisky.”

Since that promise was made, the SWA said the tax burden on Scotch Whisky “has increased from 70% to 75% of the average priced bottle, and crucially the tax-gap between spirits and other alcohol categories has widened.”

In 2022, Scotch Whisky exports were worth £6.2 billion and accounted for 77% of Scottish food and drink exports and 25% of all UK food and drink exports.

More than 11,000 people are directly employed in the Scotch Whisky industry in Scotland and over 42,000 jobs across the UK are supported by the industry. About 7,000 of these jobs in rural areas of Scotland providing vital employment and investment to communities across the Highlands and Islands

Around 90% of barley requirements for the Scotch industry are sourced in Scotland.

The SWA said the decision to further extend tax breaks for draught products in pubs, bars and restaurants “excluded 99% of distillers and increased the tax differential between Scotch Whisky with beer and cider.”

“Per unit of alcohol, the tax gap to beer in the on-trade – already 51% – will rise to 66%, and for cider it will rise from 227% to 260%,” said the SWA.

“In order to keep the commitment to the industry, the SWA is asking the UK government to allow distillers immediate access to the Energy Bill Relief Scheme, with spirits currently the only alcohol category excluded from the scheme, and a reversal of the 10.1% tax hike due to come into force on 1st August.”

SWA CEO Mark Kent said: “Over the past month, we have pressed the UK government to rethink the damaging double-digit duty rise on Scotch Whisky.

“It is hugely disappointing that the industry seems to be taken for granted, and that previous pledges that have been made to the industry will not be honoured.

“That is why we have launched the ‘Keep the Commitment’ campaign.

“We want the UK government to understand what choosing to impose a double-digit duty hike will do to the industry, hospitality businesses and consumers.

“And we want MPs to support Scotch Whisky, including in the vote next week on the tax increased proposed by the Chancellor.

“By voting against the tax increase, MPs can send a clear message to the Chancellor that he should meet the industry, reconsider the tax rise, and keep the commitment to support Scotch.”