Scotch whisky leaders warn the Chancellor’s alcohol reforms will unfairly target spirit drinkers and “fail” the drinks industry.
Mr Sunak, who himself does not drink alcohol, says he wants to reform the UK’s 380-year-old system of alcohol duty, calling it “outdated, complex and full of historical anomalies”.
His plan, which will cost the Treasury around £555 million by 2027, aims and simplifying alcohol tax brackets and is due to be introduced next year.
The proposals would reward lower-strength drinks, with the duty levied on wine with an alcohol content above 11%, high-strength cider and fortified port all being increased.
The Scotch Whisky Association wants the chancellor to back down.
‘It will penalise responsible consumers’
An open letter was signed by 28 groups and distilleries including Speyside Distilleries, Isle of Harris Distillers, Glenmorangie, Lindores Distillery and Kilchoman Distillery.
They state: “When the prime minister committed to reviewing how alcohol is taxed in this country, it was with the insistence a reformed system would support Scotch whisky distillers and the 42,000 jobs they provide.
“The Treasury says it wants a higher rate of tax on ‘stronger’ drinks.
🆕 Companies across the #ScotchWhisky industry have written an open letter to @RishiSunak urging him to #ThinkAgain over alcohol duty reforms which would increase the competitive disadvantage faced by distillers. @Helen_Whately | @hmtreasury | @ScotSecofState | #SupportScotch pic.twitter.com/c7xD9bzYVU
— Scotch Whisky Association (@ScotchWhiskySWA) January 24, 2022
“But while there’s more alcohol in a pint of beer or cider than in a Scotch and soda or a G&T, spirits drinkers will pay more in tax.
“Beer and cider drinkers will stand beside people in a pub enjoying a spirits-based cocktail – with spirits paying a premium on drinks which contain less alcohol.”
The association says the proposals will be “as confusing” and “even more unfair” than the current system which is hundreds of years old.
Unless the government revises its plans, it will penalise responsible consumers.
– Open letter from whisky groups
They added: “Unless the government revises its plans, it will penalise responsible consumers.
“It will not tackle the important issue of alcohol misuse, which needs a more targeted approach.
“And it will fail to meet the prime minister’s manifesto commitment to supporting Scottish businesses and a world-leading industry.
“The government needs to think again and deliver a tax system which, like the UK’s consumption guidelines, does not discriminate between alcohol categories.”
The Treasury was approached for comment.