Scotch Whisky – a vital UK industry

19 Feb 2016

Scotch is big boost for balance of trade

2% excise cut would encourage growth

Scotch Whisky is a star performer for the UK economy in overseas markets and without its success Britain would have a substantially larger trade deficit, new figures published today reveal.

The figures show that Scotch is the biggest net contributor to UK trade in goods.  Exports are worth almost £4 billion, while imports in the supply chain, such as packaging for products and casks for maturing the spirit, total only £200 million. The Scotch industry's trade balance is therefore £3.8bn. Without the success of Scotch, the UK's trade deficit of almost £35bn would be 11% larger.

This is among the key findings of new figures released by the Scotch Whisky Association on the 'Economic Impact of Scotch Whisky Production in the UK', which updates some of the analysis published at the start of the last year.

Other findings include:

  • Value added to the economy is up 1.6% to just over £5bn
  • The industry invests £1.7bn a year in its supply chain, almost all in the UK
  • Scotch Whisky supports salaries worth £1.4bn to UK workers
  • The industry plays an important role in rural communities where it employs 7,000 people.

The Scotch Whisky industry is expanding at historic levels. Nine new distilleries have opened in the last two years and up to a further 40 are planned across Scotland.  Significant investments have been made in warehousing and bottling capacity, as well as renewable sources of energy.

Last year's 2% cut and the spirits duty freeze and scrapping of the alcohol escalator in 2014 gave a boost to confidence in the industry, helping to support the conditions for investment.

Despite the improvement in the last couple of years, tax, including excise and VAT, on an average priced bottle of whisky stands at an onerous 76%. Last year's spirits duty cut actually helped boost government tax receipts on spirits by £96 million between April and December, compared to the same period in 2014. There is every reason to think that a further reduction would benefit UK revenues once again, as well as the Scotch Whisky industry and consumers.

David Frost, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said: "These figures re-emphasise how significant the Scotch Whisky industry is to the Scottish and wider UK economy, adding more than £5bn of value and supporting around 40,000 jobs. But it may surprise some people that Scotch Whisky is now the number one contributor to the UK's balance of trade in goods and that the trade deficit would be 11% higher without whisky exports. 

"Given the scale and impact of the Scotch Whisky industry, we believe the government should re-double its efforts to support distillers.  At home, in the short term, a further 2% duty cut in next month's Budget would be a major boost, supporting small businesses that rely on the home market and further investment in the sector." 

Notes to editors

With media enquiries, please contact: Rosemary Gallagher, SWA head of communications, 0131 222 9230 or 07432 605 385 or

For more detail please the attached economic snapshot (based on 2014 figures, the most recently available). This updates some of the report by 4-Consulting on The Economic Impact of Scotch Whisky published by the SWA in January 2015.


  • Scotch Whisky £3.8 billion*
  • Mechanical machinery £3.4bn
  • Beverages (including Scotch Whisky) £1.4bn**
  • Works of art £1.2bn
  • Fertilisers and other chemicals £0.5bn

(Source: ONS and SWA. *Scotch Whisky is not published as a separate category in the ONS tables. This figure is from SWA interpretation. **In the ONS tables Scotch is included under the Beverages category.)

NEW DISTILLERIES OPENED IN LAST TWO YEARS (2014 & 2015) - Annandale, Arbikie, Ardnamurchan, Ballindalloch, Dalmunach, Eden Mill, Glasgow Distillery, Isle of Harris, Kingsbarns.

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