Rosemary Gallagher: Whisky trade needs help

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The chances are many of you will be buying at least one bottle of whisky during the festive season. Perhaps it will be a present for your partner or to enjoy a dram yourself on a cold, wintry evening.

But your seasonal cheer might be slightly dimmed by the fact that four pounds in every five you spend – 80 per cent of the average price – on a bottle of Scotch goes straight to the UK Government. In reality, £10.06 of a 70cl bottle of Scotch typically priced at £12.90 is handed over to Chancellor George Osborne.

When I tell people about the onerous level of tax on our national drink I’m generally met with disbelief. Why would one of Britain’s major national assets, which supports almost 40,000 jobs across the UK, be treated in such an unfair way?

Scotch whisky needs the backing of government in the UK, its third largest market. The volume of Scotch sold in the UK has been declining for several years now and this is not being helped by the excise duty system. The number of bottles released for sale in the UK last year was 87.5 million, down 2.95 per cent from 90 million in 2012. The number released in the first half of this year was 35.4 million, down 7.30 per cent from 38.2 million a year earlier.

Last year George Osborne took a welcome step in the right direction when he scrapped the alcohol duty escalator and froze duty. We are calling for him to do more in next spring’s Budget. That’s why we have joined with the Wine and Spirit Trade Association and the TaxPayers’ Alliance to call for him to cut alcohol duty by two per cent.

As well as being fair on consumers, new research from consultancy firm EY shows this would boost public finances by £1.5 billion through increased investment across the hospitality industry. Jobs would be created in pubs, restaurants and hotels and investment in whisky would be encouraged.

To show your support log on to www.droptheduty.co.uk and write to your local MP.

Rosemary Gallagher is Scotch Whisky Association communications manager