Scottish Liberal Democrats have today said that whisky duty rises show that the leader of the Scottish Conservatives has either abandoned the biggest industry in his own constituency or he has been completely ignored by the new Chancellor.
On 23 September, comically short-lived Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced a freeze in alcohol duty as part of his fiscal statement.
This was greeted by Douglas Ross who said at the time:
“I will be raising a glass at his (Kwasi Kwarteng’s) decision to cancel the planned rise in duty on scotch whisky.
“That is extremely welcome for such an important industry for Moray which provides so many jobs and will also help support hospitality businesses in this area as well.”
However following Jeremy Hunt’s fiscal statement on 17 November, it was confirmed that duty is expected to rise.
UK excise duty is currently the highest of any country in the G7, with the average priced bottle of Scotch Whisky already taxed at 70%.
The Moray Chamber of Commerce says the planned increase in alcohol duty in line with inflation will cost the region £80 million per year.
Meanwhile, a Survation poll commissioned by the Scotch Whisky Association found a third of people (35%) would also be less likely to visit pubs, bars and restaurants if tax on alcohol increased.
Scottish Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael said:
“Promises to freeze duty on Scotch whisky have now been taken back by the new Chancellor.
“It must be excruciatingly embarrassing to be Douglas Ross.
“Either he has abandoned the biggest industry in his own constituency or he has been completely ignored by Jeremy Hunt.
“The result is yet another tax rise for one of Scotland’s most iconic products and Douglas Ross taking to the hills to avoid having to talk about it.
“I can understand why his Scottish Conservative colleagues keep plotting against him, they can see that no one in cabinet listens to him and he’s not confident enough to speak out.
“I understand that the Conservatives are desperately casting around for ways to fill the economic black hole that they have created but additional taxes on Scotland’s national drink will not help our economy to flourish
“We should be looking at ways to make Scottish produce more attractive, not hammering customers and leaving whisky producing areas with a colossal hangover.”