CHANCELLOR George Osborne is being urged to use his pre-election Budget next month to cut the “onerous” duty on Scotch whisky.
The Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) has been lobbying for the levy to be reduced to help support the “world class” industry.
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The sector contributes almost £5 billion a year to the UK economy and supports more than 40,000 jobs, according to the SWA.
But it argues that with tax accounting for nearly 80 per cent of the average cost of a bottle of whisky, cutting this would benefit consumers and also promote investment and jobs in the industry.
Leading figures from the SWA have held talks with Priti Patel, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, ahead of next month’s Budget.
SWA chief executive David Frost said the discussions had been “warm and constructive”, adding that the minister “clearly understands Scotch whisky’s economic importance”.
Mr Frost said: “In the UK, Scotch whisky is under sustained pressure from taxation. Eighty per cent of the price of an average bottle of Scotch whisky is taxation and we hope the Government will take on board our concerns about the negative impact of this onerous tax burden.
“In last year’s Budget, the Chancellor highlighted Scotch whisky as a ‘huge British success story’. We hope this year too he will show his support for this world-class manufacturing industry, which adds £5 billion to the UK economy and £4 billion net to the UK trade performance every year.”
The SWA is calling for a 2 per cent cut in duty for spirits, arguing this would be in line with the policy adopted for beer in the last two Budgets and would be “fair to consumers, support the public finances, and promote investment and jobs”.
In a briefing paper the organisation said the duty on whisky had only fallen three times in the last century, adding it was “time to reduce the tax burden down to a more sustainable level”.
Mr Frost said: “We hope the Government will back us by cutting duty by 2 per cent for Scotch whisky this year. This would be fair to consumers, send a powerful signal to export markets, support public finances, and most of all promote investment and jobs.”