Drinks battle

SNP attacks ‘Tory whisky tax’ weeks after raising MUP

Rishi Sunak faces calls to cut whisky taxes

SNP trade spokesman Richard Thomson has demanded Rishi Sunak’s government cuts taxes on spirits just weeks after his own party agreed to raise the minimum unit price of alcohol that will hike the cost of a bottle of whisky.

Mr Thomson issued his call ahead of the Prime Minister’s visit today to Moray – the heart of the Speyside whisky sector.

As the Scottish Conservatives gather for their annual conference in Aberdeen, Mr Thomson said: “The Tory whisky tax is holding back growth in this globally renowned industry and punishing local distilleries for paying billions into the Treasury’s coffers.”

He challenged Mr Sunak to reduce whisky duty by at least 5%, saying “anything less will be a betrayal of the Scotch whisky industry”.

However, the SNP-led government at Holyrood has been criticised by the SWA and trade unions for increasing the minimum unit price for alcohol from 50p to 65p from 30 September in a move designed to tackle abuse.

This would raise the minimum price for a 700ml bottle of whisky by more than £4, or 30%, to more than £18.20. Unions fear that the changes will endanger jobs and investment in the drinks sector.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt last year increased tax on whisky and other spirits by 10.1%, taking the tax-take to 73% but the SWA says the Treasury is losing an average of £17 million a month in tax revenue because of higher prices.

It says a 5% cut could raise £318m a year for public purse over the next five years by stimulating demand. It calculates that the previous freezes on duty between 2018 and 2023 resulted in an extra £1.4bn in revenue for the government.

Tthe 10% duty increase for spirits imposed in August meant the Treasury lost £103m in tax receipts.

Whisky accounts for 77% of Scottish food and drink exports, supports more than 40,000 jobs in Scotland and generated more than £6bn in export sales in 2022.

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