Survey reveals Scots support a cut to 80 per cent tax on whisky

A new poll says that more than two-thirds of Scots want the Chancellor to cut sky-high duty rates on whisky in this month’s Budget.

The survey was carried out by Survation for the Scotch Whisky Association, and shows that some 68 per cent say Philip Hammond should reduce taxes on Scotch, which now make up an onerous 80 per cent on an average priced bottle.

And 64 per cent of Scots think the UK Government should be doing more to back the Scotch Whisky industry – which supports 40,000 UK jobs including over 10,000 directly in Scotland.

The Chancellor is coming under increasing pressure to cut duty rates on whisky – known as the Scotch Supertax – after he imposed a damaging increase in his last Budget.

Following the near four per cent hike in the March budget, whisky sales fell by one million bottles in the first half of 2017

Philip Hammond increased duty by 3.9 per cent in March, which has been followed by falling sales and reduced Treasury revenues.

Sales have fallen by one million bottles after the hike, while revenues were down seven per cent year-on-year in the first three months after the increase.

Scottish MPs from across the political spectrum are calling on the Chancellor to cut duty and boost an iconic Scottish product which is the UK’s number one food and drink export.

They have backed the Scotch Whisky Association’s Drop The Dram Duty campaign calling for fairer taxes on whisky – which is taxed more heavily than beer and wine.

The survey found:

  • 68 per cent of Scots back a duty cut in the forthcoming budget, with 17 per cent saying duty should remain the same and 4 per cent wanting a rise.
  • 64 per cent agree that the UK Government in Westminster should do more to support the Scotch Whisky Industry, with just 15 per cent saying the Government is doing enough and two per cent who believed the Government should do less.
  • Among potential policy announcements in the upcoming Budget, lowering the level of duty on Scotch to support the Scotch whisky industry was the most supported of the three policies tested – with 62 per cent of Scots supporting a duty cut (16 per cent opposed).
  • 72 per cent of Scots believe it is unfair that Scotch whisky is taxed at a higher level than still wine or beer.

Karen Betts, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: ‘We are urging the Chancellor to use the Budget to cut tax on Scotch and back this global success story.

Karen Betts (Photo: Scotch Whisky Association)

‘The Westminster Government has a real chance to show it is fully behind a leading UK manufacturing and exporting industry at a vital time, and fully behind the jobs and communities in Scotland that the industry supports.

‘Using the Budget to Drop the Dram Duty will give Scotch the support it needs to go from strength to strength.’

Conservative MP for Moray Douglas Ross MP said: ‘The Scotch Whisky industry is hugely important to Moray as well as the entire county. I was deeply concerned about the impact of the duty rise introduced by the Chancellor in the last Budget, and hope he has carefully considered the impact of any further changes in the coming weeks.

‘Along with colleagues, I have been lobbying the government to protect this important industry, and hope the strong case which has been presented by the industry and politicians will be taken into account in the Budget this month.’

Conservative MP for Ochil and South Perthsire Luke Graham added: ‘The Scotch Whisky industry is hugely important to Scotland’s economy, and my constituency of Ochil and South Perthshire, but is also a significant historical and cultural icon.

‘The duty rise announced in the last budget has had a major impact upon the industry, with a noticeable decrease in bottle sales, and a second duty rise in a single calendar year would be a blow to an important UK-wide spirits industry which already contributes a significant amount to the Exchequer.

‘Therefore, I hope the Chancellor will consider the impact of any further rise very carefully as we don’t want to see two increases in a year.’