Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf has said the Prime Minister “now needs to deliver” on his commitment to fairness in how the Scotch whisky industry is treated by the UK Government.
Mr Yousaf and Rishi Sunak discussed the whisky industry when they met in person for the first time on Monday, ahead of a tax hike on the drink later this year.
An alcohol duty freeze is set to end on August 1 when the amount Scotch buyers will have to pay the Treasury will go up by 10.1% in line with inflation.
Ahead of the meeting, Mr Yousaf had said the duty hike and the UK Government “refusing to provide the energy-bill support the rest of the drinks industry receives” put the industry, and Scotland, at a “competitive disadvantage”.
Commenting after the meeting, a spokesperson for the First Minister said: “He was pleased that the Prime Minister committed to fairness in how the Scotch whisky industry is treated by the UK Government. He now needs to deliver on that.”
After the Budget, in which Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed duties on alcohol would “go up in line with inflation in the usual way”, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) branded the hike the “largest tax increase for decades” on the sector.
The association said the rise in duty meant tax would account for 75% of the cost of an average-priced bottle of scotch – with a bottle costing £15.22 seeing £11.40 sent to the taxman through duty and VAT.
A UK Government spokesman said: “Duty on Scotch is at its lowest level in real terms in over 100 years thanks to cuts or freezes in nine of the last 10 budgets.
“We have also acted to remove punitive tariffs on Scotch whisky imposed on the US market and are committed to ensuring Scotch whisky faces lower tariffs for export, protecting its unique characteristics and global reputation.”
The SWA said that more than 11,000 people were directly employed in the whisky industry north of the border and more than 42,000 jobs across the UK are supported by it.
In 2022, whisky exports were worth £6.2 billion, making up 77% of Scottish food and drink exports and 25% of the UK’s.
Some 53 bottles are shipped from Scotland to about 180 markets around the world every second, totalling 1.6 billion each year, the association said. Duty is not paid on exports.