Autumn Budget 2021: 'Spirits are already subject to one of the highest levels of duty in the world'

Small businesses and families across Scotland are considering how the Chancellor’s announcements will impact them.

Rory Gammell, founder and CEO of Wee Smoky.

Rory Gammell is founder and chief executive of Edinburgh-based small whisky brand Wee Smoky, which launched in November last year.

"At the moment, it's not that clear exactly how the Budget announcements will affect higher strength spirits in the longer term, but it sounds like higher strength products like ours will face eventually higher duty, albeit probably not in this next year as they have cancelled the expected rise this year. It’s definitely welcome that they’re not increasing duty for the next year, but spirits in the UK are already subject to one of the highest levels of duty in the world, so we're certainly not hoping it will go any any higher than it already is. For example, on my on my bottle of whisky, duty is already around £8. And in addition to that, you've got VAT of about £5, so 42 per cent of the of the cost of my product is already in government tax.

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Jenny and John Fyall with Isabel, 11, and Thomas, nine. Picture: Karina Emslie Photography

“My – and those of all my fellow spirits producers’ – ears pricked up when Rishi started talking about tax relief for more small producers, and then he said it would only apply to those producing drinks of 8.5 per cent or less than 8.5 per cent alcohol, which obviously doesn’t apply to products like whisky and gin. So I would say that as a community, we're definitely disappointed not to have been included within this.

“We launched in November last year and had originally planned to sell to cocktail bars, but due to the pandemic had to focus on direct to consumer through our website, which has worked well for us, we sold all of the first batch in just four days. We're just getting ready to sell our second batch of single grain next week, which is very exciting. This batch is on a slightly bigger scale and we're about to start exporting to Europe as well. However, if we are faced with much higher taxes in the UK, it might mean that many Scottish producers are better off focusing on export markets rather than selling here in the UK.”

Jenny Fyall lives in Aberdeenshire with her husband, John and children Isabel, 11 and Thomas, 9. The couple run a small holding and pumpkin farm, Udny Pumpkins, while John also works full time in communications.

"I would say that the Chancellor is perhaps giving a slightly strange message in freezing fuel duty at a time when people should be thinking about how much they're consuming fuel – and just before COP26. However, from a selfish point of view, it's obviously quite nice to think that I'm not going to have to pay more for my petrol as it already is quite a big cost for our family.

"Unfortunately, I have to drive a real gas guzzling car because we need something that can pull a trailer and drive over fields and pull livestock around and when I went to buy my pickup, which I drive so that I can chuck bales and things in the boot, I asked them if they had an electric version and they looked at me like I was completely insane. I live very rurally and there is no bus route within walking distance of my house, so I am very limited in being able to use public transport.

"The new marketplace for Aberdeen is incredibly welcome because the city centre leaves a lot to be desired. I'm surprised that in the past, it hasn't managed to attract a little bit more to be spent on it, considering that it is meant to be a city with a lot of oil wealth.

"My husband travels around the UK quite a lot for work and has been quite worried recently because lots of the flight routes from Aberdeen have stopped running and it was becoming more and more difficult for him to get around. So he will be really pleased to hear that there will be boost for regional airports. Also, I have family who live down in the southwest of England. So while I think we shouldn't be giving out the message that you can fly too much, for my own family, that will benefit us enormously.

"Finally, I am a big fan of a glass of wine and my husband is a big fan of craft beer, so any reductions on duty are very welcome to us.”

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