Charity hits out as whisky association boasts of economic impact

Web scotch bottle and glass

Economic benefits must be balanced against the significant costs of alcohol-related harm to our NHS, public services and economy, as well as to families and communities says charity boss

Paul Cardwell's photo

25th January 2017 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

Scotland’s national charity working to reduce the harm caused by alcohol has hit out at the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) after it boasted of contributing £4.6 billion to the Scottish economy and demanded a 2% reduction in spirits excise duty.

Alcohol Focus Scotland blasted the association, a membership body which represents the Scotch whisky industry including the likes of Diageo, William Grant and John Walker and Sons, saying it is putting financial success ahead of public health.

Speaking to TFN, Alison Douglas, the charity’s chief executive, reiterated criticism of the industry for delaying the implementation of minimum unit pricing.

“The economic benefits must be balanced against the significant costs of alcohol-related harm to our NHS, public services and economy, as well as to families and communities,” Douglas said.

“In delaying minimum unit pricing, members of the SWA continue to put their profits above the health and wellbeing of Scots.

“Scotland has been waiting more than four years to implement this policy which will prevent thousands of hospital admissions and crimes, and save hundreds of lives.

“Diageo, Pernod Ricard and other SWA members should not be allowed to dictate how Scotland protects and improves people’s health.”

Recent figures show that an average of 22 Scots lose their life each week due to alcohol and that the cost of alcohol-related harm stands at £3.6bn every year in Scotland.

The Scottish Government passed policy for the implementation of the 50p minimum unit price in 2012 but it has yet to be implemented due to being blocked by the Scotch whisky industry.

However in October 2016 the Court of Session decision in October ruled against a challenge by the Scotch whisky industry.

In a statement circulated widely to the media today the SWA said it contributes £4.6bn to the Scottish economy and called on the UK government to cut excise tax by 2% in next month’s budget.

It added it felt it is being treated unfairly as tax was “too high at 77% of the price of an average bottle of Scotch”.

Of a bottle of whisky sold for the average price of £12.90, £7.74 is paid in excise and £2.19 on VAT totalling £9.93 tax per bottle, it said.

The SWA described the tax as “onerous”, adding that the industry employs 36,850 in Scotland.

Julie Hesketh-Laird, SWA acting chief executive, said: “Scotch whisky is one of the UK’s most strategically important industries.

“Without valuable Scotch exports of around £4bn a year, the UK’s trade deficit in goods would be 3% larger.

“We are calling on the government to stand up for Scotch by addressing the high and unfair level of taxation distillers face in their home market.

“The current tax of 77% on an average priced bottle of Scotch is a burden on consumers and the industry.”