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Scotland's whisky industry is booming

The Scotch Whisky Association claims the industry is worth £5bn to the UK economy each year.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 23 Dec 2015

In hindsight, the SNP's economic case for Scottish independence looks increasingly like it was over-optimistic. It was based on oil being valued at $113 (£74) per barrel, but now it's less than $50 and the success of Britain's north sea oil industry looks under threat. Fortunately for Scotland, though, producers of its other famous export are in much higher spirits. 

A new report out today, admittedly from the industry's trade association, claims that it's worth £5bn to the UK and supports 40,300 jobs. The 10,000 workers it directly employs are among the best paid in Scotland, ahead of those who work in its financial and business services sector.

'Scotch Whisky must be recognised as a cultural asset that boosts growth and jobs, supports communities and combines the best of the traditional and the modern,' said Scotch Whisky Association chief exec David Frost.

Whisky exports are worth £4bn annually, twice their value in 2002, and sales to the US alone in 2013 were worth £820m. The report claims that the impact on Britain's balance of trade is particularly strong for whisky because so much of its supply chain is domestic. Without it, the UK's trade deficit would have been 16% larger in 2013.


More on whisky: MT's editor spent a couple of weeks on Islay getting the inside story back in 2010


The report was timed - surprise, surprise - to coincide with a call from the association for George Osborne to cut the alcohol duty applied to whisky. In last year's Budget he froze the tax, which was previously increasing by 2% every year, but it still remains a massive component of the cost of each bottle.

'Given the scale and impact of the Scotch Whisky industry we believe the government should show its support,' Frost said. 'One way of doing so, in the short term, would be for the chancellor to cut excise duty by 2% in the March Budget. It is unfair on the industry and consumers, and detrimental to the economy, that almost 80% of the average price of a bottle of Scotch is taxation.'

Last year's freeze was a sweetener for Scotland ahead of the referendum so a cut is unlikely this time around - especially as Osborne scrambles to find the cash to pay for any pre-election giveaways.

MT is coming to Scotland - Join us at MT Live in Edinburgh on February 4th

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