Scotch whisky adds £4.9 billion to the UK economy, according to the latest figures from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
The Defra report found that exports of Scotch whisky are worth around £4 billion each year, while imports in the supply chain, such as packaging for products and casks for maturing spirit, total only £200 million. The Scotch industry’s trade balance is therefore £3.7 billion.
The Scotch Whisky Association said that this meant that Scotch was ‘the biggest boost for the UK’s balance of trade’.
It continued its calls for a tax relief for whisky companies, saying that a 2% reduction would further help the prospects of the Scotch whisky industry and represents fairer treatment for those involved in whisky production.
Scotch Whisky Association acting chief executive Julie Hesketh-Laird said: “Scotch whisky is one of the UK’s most strategically important industries. Without valuable Scotch exports of around £4 billion a year, the UK’s trade deficit in goods would be 3% larger. And the research published today emphasises the value of the industry, which adds £5 billion to the economy annually and supports more than 40,000 jobs.”
The figures from Defra were released ahead of Burns Night tonight – the anniversary of the birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns – with many Scots expected to celebrate with a dram of whisky.
Hesketh-Laird continued: “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 [rate] of 77% on an average-priced bottle of Scotch is a burden on consumers and the industry.
“And the Government’s own figures indicate that fairer tax treatment leads to increased revenue for the public purse. We are calling on the UK government to cut excise by 2% in next month’s budget, supporting a great Scottish and British industry at a time of uncertainty, giving us a stronger domestic platform from which to invest and grow to make a success of Brexit.”
Other findings included in Defra’s report include that some 40,000 jobs are supported by the Scotch whisky industry across the UK, including more than 10,500 people directly employed in Scotland. Almost £1.3 billion is paid in salaries in Scotland, it predicted.
And the report found that Scotch is a significant contributor to rural employment, often supporting fragile local economies and providing rural jobs. The Scotch Whisky industry is expanding at historic levels. As well as the 14 new distilleries opened since 2013, existing sites have been expanded – for example with increased production, more warehouses or revamped visitor centres – and up to a 40 new distilleries are planned across Scotland, with seven expected to open this year alone.
Elsewhere in the UK, Wales was awarded whisky industry status for the first time this year after a second distillery opened in the country.
Dà Mhìle Distillery in Ceredigion announced the release of its first whisky, and it will be in the company of drinks giant Halewood, which released plans to open a whisky distillery in North Wales earlier this month.
A year ago, Brecon-based Penderyn was the only distiller making whisky in Wales.
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