SWA ramps up call to cut duty as domestic sales of whisky fall

Arabella Mileham

David Frost

David Frost

Domestic sales of whisky have fallen nearly 5% in the last year, according to new figures from the Scotch Whisky Association.

Sales of 70cl bottles of Scotch have dropped by 4.78% in the UK since 2013 - or around 4.2m bottles - to 83.3m, figures from HMRC show. The SWA, who released the figures, said Scotch sales has shrunk by 9.5% in the domestic market in the last five years, down from 92m bottles in 2009, the SWA said.

The trade body said this decline was further evidence of the “onerous” level of duty imposed by the governments, which accounts for around 78% of the price of an average bottle of Scotch. It is calling on the Chancellor to cut alcohol duty by 2% in the Budget on 18 March, arguing that the whisky industry adds value of £5 billion to the UK each year and supports more than 40,000 jobs.

A 2% cut in duty would assist growth across the industry, which is says is “over-burdened”. Duty on Scotch has been cut three times in the last century, it pointed out and currently British drinkers contribute a quarter of all excise duty paid on spirits in the European Union. This contrast to French and German consumers who contribute 15% and 14% of total EU spirits taxes respectively, and Spanish consumers who contributed only 5% of spirits tax revenues, it said.

David Frost, chief executive of the SWA said the news on domestic decline was disappointing as Scotch had proved a “massive” export success. He argued that the Chancellor himself had highlighted Scotch Whisky’s success in export markets in the budget last year and called on him to show support for Britain’s industry.

“In next week’s Budget the Chancellor has the perfect opportunity to support an important UK industry. He should cut spirits duty by 2%. This move would also benefit consumers and public finances.”

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