Scotch whisky has enjoyed a reversal of fortunes in the UK market and demand is now soaring among British drinkers, Government figures have revealed.

The latest HMRC stats, covering the first nine months of 2016, show the number of 70cl bottles released for sale in the UK grew to 57.2 million.

That is an increase of 5.6% on the 54.2 million sold in the same period in 2015, and the Scotch Whisky Association called it “a clear sign of a reversal of declining demand experienced in recent years”.

But it used the opportunity to call for a fairer deal in the March Budget as “the current level of tax of 77% on an average priced bottle of Scotch is still too high and more support from government is needed”.

Julie Hesketh-Laird, acting chief executive at the SWA, said: “A strong UK market is vital, particularly for new entrants to the industry. In the last few years, 14 new distilleries have started production in Scotland and a further eight are set to open this year. They need a strong domestic base to grow from.  

“The UK is one of the biggest markets for Scotch in the world, but it is fragile and competitive, particularly so in the context of the historic change Brexit will bring. That’s why we want the Chancellor to support our strategically-important industry by cutting duty by 2% next month. And the Government’s own figures show that such a cut would also benefit the public purse.

“The tax treatment of Scotch in its home market also has repercussions for our export performance. If overseas governments see Scotch being treated unfairly in the UK that could influence their decisions. This makes it harder to ensure a level playing field for Scotch overseas at a time when we must grow our exports to make a success of Brexit.”

The Scotch whisky industry is said to support 40,000 British jobs and it contributes billions to the economy.
William Wemyss, director at the Kingsbarns Distillery in Fife, one of the 14 sites to have opened in recent years, said: “Kingsbarns will release its first ever Single malt in the next few years and a 2% cut in duty will undoubtedly help boost demand for our small batch whiskies. Therefore, we very much hope the Chancellor listens to the SWA campaign when deliberating over its Budget priorities.”