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18 January 2021

Scotch Whisky Industry Asks Chancellor to Cut Duty to Lift the Nation’s Spirits

The Scotch Whisky industry has called for a cut to excise duty in its submission for the March Budget later this year.

Cutting tax on Scotch Whisky and other spirits in the Budget could give Chancellor Rishi Sunak an extra £750 million to spend over the next three years, according to an analysis of alcohol taxation.

The figures, based on modelling conducted by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr), show that HM Treasury can generate an additional £748m in duty and VAT over a three year period by cutting excise duty on spirits by 5%.

A reduction of the significant tax burden on Scotch Whisky, which currently sees £3 in every £4 spent on the average-priced bottle of Scotch Whisky go directly to HM Treasury in taxes, would actually drive government revenues, boost the hospitality industry - which has been one of the worst impacted by Covid-19 – and lift the nation’s spirits after a challenging year for industry and consumers.

The new figures have been released as the Scotch Whisky Association presents its submission to the Chancellor ahead of the 3 March budget.

The industry has also stressed to the Chancellor the need to support the industry in the face of punitive tariffs imposed by the United States on exports of Scotch Whisky.  These tariffs have cost the industry  £450m over the last fifteen months, and losses continue to rise. That Scotch Whisky is paying the price of a trade dispute between US and European aircraft manufacturers is creating real pressure on jobs and businesses and has compounded the losses the industry has also faced because of the global pandemic. 

The impact of US tariffs on the industry has added to pressure on the Chancellor to go further than the freeze on duty he announced in the last UK budget.

With £450 million in losses to date, and counting, jobs and businesses are now at risk, in Scotland and throughout our UK supply chain.

Read the industry's Budget Submission here

Karen Betts, Chief Executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: " The last year has been very challenging for the Scotch Whisky industry, with the combined impact of Covid-19 and US tariffs.  Scotch Whisky producers, large and small, are facing considerable losses and, as a result, we are urging the Chancellor to cut spirits duty in the Budget.

“A cut in duty will also help the hospitality sector, with pubs, bars and restaurants across the UK crying out for continued support.

“The industry is not going cap in hand to the Chancellor – but in order that we can be a partner in recovery the Chancellor must use the tax system to help grow the economy. A cut in spirits duty will deliver additional revenue for the government as well as supporting our industry as we absorb millions of pounds of losses as a result of UK government subsidies to aerospace, which sparked the trade dispute that has seen 25% tariffs on exports of Scotch Whisky to the United States. 

“With £450 million in losses to date, and counting, jobs and businesses are now at risk, in Scotland and throughout our UK supply chain. The industry needs a package of support from the UK government while distillers continue to face crippling tariffs, and the Chancellor can start by cutting duty in the budget.”


  • A 5% cut in spirits duty would reduce the tax burden on the average priced bottle of Scotch whisky from 70% to 68%
  • Scotch Whisky, and other spirits, are taxed more per unit of alcohol than beer, wine or cider
  • A 5% cut in duty would mean Scotch Whisky is taxed the same per unit as 11%abv wine (assuming a freeze on wine duty)
  • There have only been four cuts to spirits duty in the past 100 years
  • The Cebr analysis was carried out in late August and September 2020 and does not take account of recent Covid developments and related economic data. The highly uncertain economic environment therefore needs to be borne in mind when looking at these figures – which could be subject to change

Download the SWA's Budget Submission here

For more information, please contact