Skip to the content

20 October 2021

4 in 5 People Support a Freeze or Cut to Scotch Whisky Tax in Autumn Budget

4 in 5 People Support a Freeze or Cut to Scotch Whisky Tax in Autumn Budget
The Scotch Whisky industry is urging the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to back ‘home grown’ sector.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has published a new poll that shows 82% of people support the Chancellor freezing or cutting tax on spirits in next week’s autumn budget.

Rishi Sunak has been urged to support UK industries like Scotch Whisky by delivering on the long-anticipated alcohol duty review, making alcohol taxation fairer for business and consumers.

Per unit of alcohol, duty paid on spirits is already significantly higher than the European average, with more than £3 in every £4 spent on a bottle of Scotch Whisky going to the treasury as tax. The Scotch Whisky industry said the survey findings confirm that many consumers are already feeling the impacts of rising costs, with 78% feeling the pinch over the past year. A further increase to spirits duty in the budget would further add to the cost of living.

The poll, conducted by Survation, also shows Scotch Whisky’s crucial role in supporting the wider supply chain, with 89% acknowledging its importance to the hospitality sector, which has been hit hard by the impact of the pandemic. With more than a third of all alcohol sales in pubs, restaurants and bars in the UK attributed to spirits, Scotch Whisky and other spirits are vital to the recovery of the UK hospitality industry – and the jobs that go with it.

The Scotch Whisky industry already contributes more than £5.5bn to the UK economy every year, with exports worth around £4bn annually. The sector supports more than 42,000 UK jobs, employing 11,000 people directly, the majority of whom are in rural communities of Scotland. More than 90% of all UK spirits production is based in Scotland, and the SWA has argued that any increase to spirits duty would put Scotch Whisky distillers at a further competitive disadvantage and disproportionately impact business north of the border.

The Chancellor’s 2020 Budget promised a reform of the alcohol duty system, with the Conservatives’ 2019 election manifesto promising to “ensure the tax system is supporting Scotch Whisky”.

Graeme Littlejohn, Director of Strategy and Communications for the Scotch Whisky Association said: “With four in every five people supporting a freeze or cut to spirits duty, Scotch Whisky distillers know that they have the support of the UK public to keep growing and investing in our world-leading industry. Now distillers want to know if they have the backing of the Chancellor.

“Scotch Whisky wants to play its part in the UK’s economic recovery, but distillers have already been penalised for many years as a result of what the UK government admits is an “outdated” and “highly inconsistent” system of alcohol taxation.

“Consumers who enjoy a cocktail or a dram of Scotch Whisky are also being singled out for higher taxes, paying more in duty despite the higher alcohol content in the average pint or glass of wine.

“Reform of the alcohol duty system is an opportunity for the Chancellor to make good on the commitments made to support the Scotch Whisky industry. By fixing the unequal, unfair and unfit duty system, he can back home-grown industries like Scotch Whisky.”

Notes to Editors:


  • In the Queen’s Speech following the 2019 General Election, the UK government announced the review and promised to “review alcohol duty to ensure our tax system is supporting Scottish whisky and gin producers and protecting 42,000 jobs supported by Scotch across the UK.”

    More information can be found on page 122 of this document

  • The 2019 Conservative manifesto recognised the high tax burden on Scotch Whisky. It said “Scotch whisky is a national export that supports 42,000 jobs across the UK. Yet the tax on each bottle of Scotch sold in this country represents almost three quarters of its price. That is why over the past two years we have frozen the duty on spirits, cutting the price of a bottle of Scotch by 30p. Now, we want to do more, which is why we will review alcohol duty to ensure that our tax system is supporting British drink producers.”

    More information can be found on page 48 of this document