Scottish secretary backs UK duty cut

The Scotland Secretary Alistair Carmichael has lent his support to the Drop The Duty campaign, led by the Scotch Whisky Association and the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, pushing for a 2% drop in UK alcohol tax.

David Frost, chairman of the SWA (left) with Secretary of State Alistair Carmichael (right) (Photo: Paul Grover)

David Frost, chief executive of the SWA (left) with Secretary of State Alistair Carmichael (right) (Photo: Paul Grover)

The Secretary of State, speaking at a reception held by the SWA in Parliament on Wednesday, said that he “hopes we [the government] can meet” the demands of the campaign to lower alcohol duty by 2%.

He said the government is willing to do “everything we can to ensure the success” of Scotch whisky, but warned it is “the job of the Chancellor” to make the final decision.

The parliamentary reception, which also featured speeches by members of the All-Parliamentary Scotch Whisky and Spirits Group and the chief executive of the SWA David Frost, was held to mark the publication of the Scotch Whisky Economic Impact Report. 

The report highlighted the positive impact of Scotch whisky to the UK economy. Based on data from 2013, Scotch whisky exports were worth £4 billion, and the industry’s contribution to the country’s GDP was £5bn.

In terms of the industry’s £1.8bn opertating expenditure – the spending of Scotch companies to produce and distribute whisky – 90% of that was enjoyed by suppliers in the UK, due to Scotch makers using only Scottish farmers, and British bottlers and logistics firms.

Scotch accounts for 25% of all UK food and drink exports, and every job in the Scotch Whisky industry supports 2.7 other jobs in the wider economy, according to the report.

The Budget will be delivered by the Chancellor George Osborne next month, and the Drop the Duty Campaign is pressing for a drop in alcohol tax to support the drinks industry as a whole and pass savings on to consumers. The UK has some of the highest alcohol taxes in the world, according to the campaign.

Similar campaigning by the industry last year saw the Chancellor scrap the Alcohol Duty Escalator, which saw tax increase on wine and spirits year-on-year since the policy’s introduction in 2008. The escalator on beer was scrapped by the government in 2013 after pressure from the industry.

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