The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) is calling on the Chancellor to “stand up for scotch” by cutting excise duty on spirits by 2% in the budget on March 8.
This will help boost the domestic market for whisky, as well as secure jobs and investment within the scotch whisky industry and its UK supply chain.
The most up-to-date figures available from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) reveal the number of 70cl bottles of scotch whisky released for sale in the UK in the first three quarters of last year totalled 57.2 million, up 5.6% from 54.2m in the same period of 2015.
The positive trend builds on growing demand in 2015 – the first period of growth in the UK since 2010. However, fewer bottles were sold in the first nine months of last year than in the same period ten years ago, with 62.6m bottles released for sale in the first nine months of 2006.
The SWA said that moves towards a fairer and more competitive excise regime in recent budgets have helped to support the industry. Last spring, excise on spirits was frozen, following a cut of 2% in 2015 – only the fourth time in the last century that duty on Scotch has been cut – and a freeze and a scrapping of the alcohol duty escalator in 2014. A 2% cut next month would give a further confidence boost to a strategically-important British industry, says the SWA.
Julie Hesketh-Laird, Scotch Whisky Association acting chief executive, said: “A strong UK market is vital, particularly for new entrants to the industry. In the last few years, 14 new distilleries have started production in Scotland and a further eight are set to open this year. They need a strong domestic base to grow from.
“The UK is one of the biggest markets for Scotch in the world, but it is fragile and competitive, particularly so in the context of the historic change Brexit will bring. That’s why we want the Chancellor to support our strategically-important industry by cutting duty by 2% next month. And the Government’s own figures show that such a cut would also benefit the public purse.
“The tax treatment of Scotch in its home market also has repercussions for our export performance. If overseas governments see Scotch being treated unfairly in the UK that could influence their decisions. This makes it harder to ensure a level playing field for Scotch overseas at a time when we must grow our exports to make a success of Brexit.”