Whisky tax rise in Budget would show disregard for Scotland: poll

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Increasing the tax on whisky would show the UK Government does not care about Scotland, according to a majority of Scots.

Research conducted for the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) found almost three-fifths (58%) of people surveyed agreed with that sentiment.

Currently, £3 in every £4 spent on the average priced bottle of whisky in the UK goes to the Treasury in taxation.

With Chancellor Philip Hammond set to deliver his Budget later this month, the SWA said it wants to ensure there are no increases in whisky excise duty this year.

Spirits duty was frozen in last year’s Budget, but the sector still delivered almost £2 billion to the Treasury in the period February to August, according to the SWA – up £163 million on the same period in 2017.

The SWA also cited a study from the Centre for Economic and Business Research which it says shows continuing the freeze could provide an additional £64 million in revenue in 2019-20.

SWA chief executive Karen Betts said: “Scotch whisky producers are working hard to continue to boost already-record levels of exports, invest in communities across Scotland, and generate billions for the Scottish economy.

“However, to ensure our industry remains competitive as uncertainty over Brexit persists, we are urging the UK Government to support Scotch by delivering a freeze in this year’s Budget.”

In the survey, carried out for the SWA by pollsters at Survation, 30% of people agreed strongly that a rise in whisky duty would show the UK Government “doesn’t care about Scotland”, with 28% saying they agreed somewhat with this.

Ms Betts added: “Freezing duty on Scotch whisky will underscore the UK Government’s commitment to supporting Scotland’s vibrant, world-leading whisky industry. Importantly, it will also boost Government revenue, providing additional funds to help invest in vital public services.

“We are calling on the Chancellor to support Scotch and signal to the world that we are proud of Scotland’s national drink and eager to support its continued success.”

A Treasury spokeswoman said: “We recognise the importance of the Scotch whisky industry to the UK, which along with consumers, local pubs and breweries has benefitted significantly from freezes and cuts to alcohol duties in recent years.

“However, these freezes come at significant cost to the public purse. Successive cuts and freezes to alcohol duty have cost approximately £4 billion since 2013/14, equivalent to 100,000 teachers’ yearly salaries.”

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