Burns’ Night puts Scotch Whisky tax on Chancellor’s radar
25 Jan 2015
Robert Burns' birthday is toasted cross the country
with a wee dram of Scotch Whisky.
If every adult in the UK raises a toast to Robert Burns and
enjoys one dram, Chancellor George Osborne will pocket £38.7
million in duty.
But as long as 230 years ago, Burns himself, despite employment
as an excise man, savaged the tax regime imposed on Scotch Whisky -
today one of the highest taxed goods in Britain.
In 'Scotch Drink', written in 1785, he declares of Scotch: "O
thou, my muse! guid auld Scotch Drink!"
But later in the poem he reveals his frustration at high
"Thae curst horse-leeches o' the' Excise,
Wha mak the whisky stells their prize!
Haud up thy han', Deil! ance, twice, thrice!
There, seize the blinkers!
An' bake them up in brunstane pies
For poor damn'd drinkers."
Today almost 80% of the price of an average bottle of Scotch is
made up of tax.
Meanwhile, the spirits and wine industry contributes £45bn to
the UK economy every year.
In 'The Deil's Awa Wi' Th' Exciseman' (1792) Burns ponders the
reaction if the Devil prevented the taxman from collecting his
alcohol duty. Few, he predicted, would mourn:
"We'll mak our maut, and we'll brew our drink,
We'll laugh, sing, and rejoice, man,
And monie braw thanks to the meikle black Deil,
That danc'd awa wi' th' Exciseman!"
Today a similar reaction could be predicted. Recent polling
commissioned by the Scotch Whisky Association found that 84% of the
British public believe current tax rates on whisky to be
Rosemary Gallagher, Scotch Whisky Association spokesperson,
said: "Today we celebrate the life and works of Robert Burns. His
poetry continues to resonate with many people not just in Scotland
but across the globe.
"But for those of us concerned about the impact of high rates of
taxation on one of the UK's most successful industries, the words
of Burns are particularly appropriate. While we would never refer
to anyone as a 'horse leech', we do understand his frustrations.
One can only imagine what he would make of today's 80% tax
The 'Drop the Duty!' campaign, comprising the Scotch Whisky
Association, the Wine & Spirit Trade Association and the
TaxPayers' Alliance is urging Chancellor George Osborne to cut
excise duty on all spirits, including Scotch, by 2% in the UK
Budget this March.
The industry is calling on people to email their MP via the
campaign website (www.droptheduty.co.uk) to urge George Osborne to
NOTES TO EDITORS
"Those cursed horse leeches of the Excise,
Who make the whisky stills their prize!
Hold up your hand, Devil! once, twice, three times!
There, seize the spies!
And bake them up in brimstone pies
For poor damned drinkers."
"We will make our malt, and we will brew our drink,
We will laugh, sing, and rejoice, man,
And many good thanks to the big black Devil,
That danced away with the Exciseman!"
The SWA is joined in the 'Drop the Duty' campaign by the Wine
and Spirit Trade Association and the Taxpayers' Alliance.
For more information on the campaign visit
For more information on the SWA visit www.scotch-whisky.org.uk and
follow us on Twitter @ScotchWhiskySWA
Contact Rosemary Gallagher at the SWA on 0131 222 9230/07432 605
385 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with any media queries.