Apparently we Brits are drinking less Scotch whisky. And not just a little bit less, either – we collectively bought one million fewer bottles last year. I mean, not anyone that we know, but the figures don’t lie.
According to HMRC, 36.7 million bottles of tasty, tasty whisky were released for sale in the first six months of 2017, down 2.6% when compared to the same period in 2016. This is particularly disappointing when you consider that since 2015 sales have gradually been increasing off the back of years of decline. So, what’s going on?
The astute folk at the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) were quick to point out that the drop follows a decision made by current chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond to hike spirits duty up by 3.9% in the 2017 Spring Budget.
It might seem like a slightly tenuous link (how big an impact can such a small percentage rise have?) but hark back once more to the golden year of 2015 and you’ll find that spirits duty was cut by 2%. The result? Spirits sales in 2015/16 increased by £123 million in just one year. Hardly small change.
To quantify the rise in real terms, tax now makes up 80% of an average bottle of Scotch. So, if say, you were to nab a bottle for £12.77 (bargain of the century, but hear us out), £10.18 of your hard-earned cash would go to the Treasury.
Ironically, hiking up the tax hasn’t quite worked out for the Treasury, either. Since we’re all buying less whisky, the tax take from spirits sales is down – and again, not just by a little bit. Between April and July last year, the Treasury banked £751 million in spirits taxes. This year they’ve taken £697 million. So a lose-lose all round then, really.
Thankfully the SWA has come up with a plan of sorts ahead of the November Budget, and they’ve called it Drop The Dram Duty. They’re campaigning for Hammond and his government chums to give spirits “fairer tax treatment”.
“Philip Hammond’s damaging 3.9% spirits duty hike has hit UK demand for Scotch and seen less money going to the Treasury,” said Karen Betts, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive
“The chancellor should use his November Budget to Drop The Dram Duty and boost a great British success story. Cutting tax would send a strong signal that the government believes in a world-famous UK manufacturing industry which supports 40,000 jobs and plays a key role in Scotland’s economy.”
Indeed. And to everyone else we say, pull your finger out and start stocking up on the sweet stuff. It’s for the greater good.