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As distilleries see record visitors...

Whisky leader warns of tax threat to investment

Natural colour wall at Macallan distillery, Speyside

The natural colour wall features more than 3,000 bottles at the new multi-million pound Macallan Distillery and visitor centre (pic by Terry Murden)


A Scotch whisky leader has warned that investment in increasingly popular whisky trails could dry up if the Treasury imposes further tax rises on the industry.

As new figures show that tourists are pouring into distilleries and visitor centres in record numbers, Karen Betts, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said tourists were unaware how much tax the sector pays.

Last year saw 1.9million visits to distilleries, an 11.4% rise year-on-year and 45% since 2010.  Spending at visitor centres was up by 15.6% to £60.9 million.

Mrs Betts said: “Scotch Whisky distilleries have invested – and continue to invest – hugely in providing world-class visitor facilities at their sites all over Scotland, and they are collaborating in establishing new whisky trails and finding new ways of telling the story of Scotch to British and foreign visitors alike.

“Whisky tourism is on the up, but tourists are often surprised that Scotch is more expensive here in the UK than it is in their home countries.

“They are surprised to know that £3 in every £4 spent on a bottle of Scotch in the UK goes to the government in tax. If tax rises further in the Autumn Budget, this will put at risk further industry investment.”

Visitor centres reported that the highest number of visitors came from Germany and the US, followed by those from India, China and Japan.

The SWA survey also details that on average more than £32 was spent during each trip to a visitor centre, up almost 4% year on year and by £11 per visit in 2010.

Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop, welcomed the survey results, saying: “These record figures show the value of the industry and how well-regarded Scotch whisky is to tourists from the UK and abroad.”

The success story of Scotch Whisky tourism has also positioned the industry as one of leading UK attractions.

The National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Castle are the top attractions outside London, both attracting over 2 million visits in 2017, just 100,000 more than those drawn to distilleries.

Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “We’re delighted that the popularity of Scotch Whisky distilleries is continuing to grow with our visitors, which reflects the hard work and investment by the industry in delivering a world-class experience.”

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