Readers still have time to back OLN’s push to get the duty escalator scrapped in this year’s Budget, as the industry’s efforts to influence the chancellor intensify before his March 19 announcement.

In our last issue, we printed a postcard for retailers to return to us expressing their opposition to more duty being heaped on alcohol.

We promised to send these cards directly to their individual MPs to highlight the trade’s concerns.

We were inundated with responses, which demonstrated the intensity of the trade’s concerns, and there is still time to let your MP know the government should be lenient to help protect businesses and preserve vital jobs.

All you have to do is click here and follow the link, which will automatically send an email on your behalf.

The health lobby has admitted Osborne’s resolve to keep the duty escalator on wine and spirits may be weakening in the face of intense industry pressure to scrap it.

The chancellor axed the escalator on beer last year but kept it in place on wine, spirits and cider.

But groups such as the Scotch Whisky Association, the Wine & Spirit Trade Association and the National Association of Cider Makers have campaigned for him to give their industries a fair deal.

Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance and the Royal College of Physicians’ special adviser, wrote to Osborne urging him not to cave in when he announces his next Budget.

But he admitted that the chancellor is “showing signs that he is weakening on this resolve”.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance has also added its support to the WSTA’s Call Time on Duty campaign, which highlights that 57% of the average bottle price of wine is tax, rising to 79% for spirits.

Producers have also urged retailers to get behind the push. Anthony Wills, managing director of Kilchoman distillery, said: “I wonder how many [consumers] realise that when they buy an average-priced bottle of Scotch whisky, they hand over 79% of what they paid to the chancellor in tax and VAT. I don’t think that is fair.”

Speaking at a Fuller’s event attended by Osborne, the brewer’s chief executive, Simon Emeny, emphasised the positive impact a duty cut can provide businesses. He said: “Since the duty cut, the government has given us the confidence to invest. We have created 140 new jobs, 21% of those are for the under 21s – and we are not alone.”