UK market for Scotch Whisky improves in 2015

02 Mar 2016

2% excise cut will help sustain recovery

Last year's cut contributes to £102m boost to Treasury revenues

The UK market for Scotch Whisky is showing signs of improvement following years of decline, but the industry says more support is needed if these green shoots of recovery are to thrive.

The most up-to-date figures available from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), published today by the Scotch Whisky Association, reveal the number of 70cl bottles of Scotch released for sale increased by 2% last year. Some 84.9 million bottles were released for sale in 2015, up from 83.3m the previous year.

The moderate increase in volume of Scotch sold in the UK recently comes on the back of years of decline. The number of bottles released for sale in the UK has fallen by around a quarter in the last 10 years. In 2005 more than 107m bottles were sold, but volumes have never exceeded 100m in one year since 2008.

The SWA said the 2% cut in excise duty in last year's UK Budget, on the back of a freeze and the scrapping of the alcohol duty escalator in 2014, has given a confidence boost to the industry. However, the UK drinks market remains fiercely competitive and the SWA says the current level of tax, including excise and Vat, of 76% on an average priced bottle of Scotch Whisky is still too high. The SWA is calling for 'Fair Tax for Whisky' with a further 2% cut in excise in the UK Budget on 16 March, a move supported by three quarters of the British public.

Last year's excise reduction - only the fourth time in the last century that duty on Scotch has been cut - has also boosted Treasury coffers by contributing to a £102m increase in revenue receipts from spirits.  

David Frost, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said: "A strong UK market is vital, particularly for new entrants to the industry. In the last two years, nine new distilleries have started production in Scotland and they need a strong domestic base to grow from. 

The UK is still the third biggest market for Scotch in the world, but it is fragile and competitive. That's why we want Chancellor George Osborne to support an important domestic industry by cutting duty by a further 2% next month. 

"The tax treatment of Scotch in its home market also has repercussions for our export performance. If overseas governments see Scotch being treated unfairly in the UK that could influence their decisions. This makes it harder to ensure a level playing field for Scotch overseas.  With Scotch now the biggest net contributor to UK trade in goods, it is important the Chancellor acts to support distillers and therefore the wider economy."


Notes to editors
The official figures are from HM Revenue & Customs and are for the number of bottles released from bond for sale in the UK.
The nine new distilleries opening in the last two years are: Annandale, Arbikie, Ardnamurchan, Ballindalloch, Dalmunach, Eden Mill, Glasgow, Isle of Harris, and Kingsbarns.

The source of the trade balance information is available to download below. 

For more information on the SWA visit and follow us on Twitter @ScotchWhiskySWA

With queries please contact Rosemary Gallagher, SWA head of communications, Tel 0131 222 9230/07432 605385,

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