David Frost: It's time to stand up for whisky, Mr Chancellor

OUR national drink deserves a little better, writes David Frost

New distilleries have opened and up to 40 more are at various stages of development. Picture: PA

Scotland is proud of its national drink and rightly so. Scotch whisky is a product recognised around the world, renowned both for its quality and provenance.

But while Scotch is clearly held in high esteem, its treatment in its home market remains unfair. Distillers have seen the UK market for Scotch decline by around a quarter over the past two decades.

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There are, however, signs that this is starting to change. In last year’s UK Budget, the Chancellor described Scotch as a “great British success story” when he cut excise duty on spirits by 2 per cent. In making this bold move he had clearly listened to the industry when we said a cut in duty would increase confidence, safeguard jobs, help consumers and benefit the Treasury.

And we have been proved right.

The historic cut in duty has helped to create conditions to support investment. New distilleries have opened and up to 40 more are at various stages of development. At a time when export markets have been challenging, the duty cut has given distillers the confidence to invest in their ambitions.

The tax cut has also driven higher revenues. According to the government’s own figures, spirits duty revenues are up an extra £96 million or 4 per cent between April and December 2015 compared to 2014.

But we believe more has to be done and we are calling on the government to cut excise duty again by 2 per cent in the Budget in March.

Scotch is taxed at much higher levels than competing products. On the same amount of alcohol, Scotch drinkers pay 51 per cent more duty than beer drinkers and 27 per cent more than wine drinkers.

Consumers agree this is unfair, with three quarters of people polled saying they think duty should be cut again this year. That’s why we’re asking the government to “Stand up for Scotch”.

By cutting duty, the Chancellor can support a key Scottish industry, supporting jobs and investment across the UK. We are calling on him to take a further step along the road to delivering “Fair Tax for Whisky” next month.

• David Frost, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive