Scottish Tories toast win on whisky as Glasgow MPs rage over fire snub

Karen Betts - Chief Executive at the Scotch Whisky Association.
Karen Betts - Chief Executive at the Scotch Whisky Association.
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Scottish Conservative MPs are celebrating two big wins for key industries after the Chancellor froze taxes on whisky and North Sea oil and gas producers.

Spirit duty was frozen for another year, saving 30p on the cost of a bottle of Scotch. Philip Hammond praised the lobbying effort by Scottish Tory MPs, saying: “We can all afford to raise a wee dram to toast Ruth Davidson,” following the birth of her son Finn.

Scotch Whisky Association chief executive Karen Betts said the stable tax environment “supports the industry’s global competitiveness, nurtures growth and backs jobs and investment”.

The Chancellor also kept tax incentives for the North Sea in place and announced a consultation on making Scotland a “global hub” for offshore decommissioning.

Oil & Gas UK chief executive Deirdre Michie held out the prospect of further growth, saying: “These conditions are delivering a tentative recovery, with more projects approved so far this year than in the last three years combined.”

Douglas Ross, the Tory MP for Moray, hailed the freeze in spirit duty as a “fantastic result” following “tough negotiations”. But SNP MP David Linden said it was “poor form to suggest it was only Scottish Tories who lobbied for this” after a cross-party effort.

There was anger from Glasgow MPs at the announcement of £2 million to help Belfast recover from a fire that gutted a Primark store in a historic city centre building. Calls had been made for more UK Government support following the second fire at the Glasgow School of Art that nearly destroyed the Charles Rennie Mackintosh masterpiece this year.

Labour’s Paul Sweeney said Scottish Secretary David Mundell had “failed to deliver for the city after this crisis” while the SNP’s Alison Thewliss said her “pleas fell on deaf ears” at the Treasury.

“It’s hardly surprising that Belfast will benefit from regeneration funding in the wake of the Bank Buildings fire – the Tories are too busy buying DUP votes by investing in Belfast, while completely ignoring those in similar circumstances in Glasgow,” she said.

A source said the Government had provided generous support after the first devastating fire and called the comparison with Belfast “mischief-making”. Additional support has not been ruled out, the source added, but detailed reconstruction plans had yet to come forward.