SCOTTISH Secretary Alistair Carmichael was forced to defend the government in a cross-party attack on the high level of duty imposed on whisky by the Treasury.
MPs from all sides of the House criticised the government for “disriminatory” duty which sees 80 per cent of a price of a bottle of whisky go in tax while beer duty is just 37 per cent.
Angus Robertson, the Scottish National Party’s Westminster leader, pointed out that Mr Carmichael previously campaigned against “discriminatory” duty on whisky but was now supporting it in Government.
Mr Carmichael hit back by suggesting the SNP’s support for independence would ruin the whisky industry north of the border.
During Scotland questions, Mr Robertson told the Scottish Secretary: “In opposition, you and I and others lobbied the Treasury to end duty discrimination. In fact, you tabled an amendment in the Commons to end tax discrimination, supported by Liberal Democrat MPs and the SNP.
“But since becoming Scottish Secretary you have taken the Tory shilling, you are letting the industry down and you are supporting discriminatory duty.
“When will you stand up and be Scotland’s man in the cabinet, not the Tory’s man in Scotland?”
Mr Carmichael replied: “I do hope that did sound better when you rehearsed it in the mirror this morning because it sounded pretty poor this afternoon.
“There is no escaping the fundamental truth that you have got a policy that would be the ruination of the Scotch whisky industry for no good reason.”
Earlier, Mr Robertson told Mr Carmichael: “Eighty per cent of a price of a bottle of Scotch whisky is duty, which is paid to the UK Treasury. Duty discrimination by the UK Government is widening the price between whisky and other beverage categories.
“How does that help the industry and employees?”
The Scottish Secretary replied: “The point you will have to answer, and I suspect that you don’t, is the Scotch whisky industry does very well as part of the United Kingdom, taking the fullest possible advantage of the string of embassies and UKTI (UK Trade and Investment) offices that we have across the world and your policy of independence would put that at risk.”
Liberal Democrat Argyll and Bute MP Alan Reid said it was unfair whisky is taxed at a higher rate when compared to beers and wines.
He told Mr Carmichael: “The Scotch whisky industry provides many jobs in my constituency but I feel it’s very unfair that whisky is taxed at a higher rate per unit of alcohol compared to beers and wines.
“Will the Government review the alcohol taxation with a view to creating a level playing field?”
Central Ayrshire Labour MP Brian Donohoe, secretary of the all-party parliamentary scotch whisky and spirits group, added: “The Chancellor gave so much to the beer industry in his most recent Budget. What representations has the Secretary of State made to the Chancellor with the aim of overcoming the problem?”