Bottoms up! Scotch whisky is bigger business than UK steel, computer or textile industries

Totting up the economic power of Scotland’s tastiest export

Scotch whisky is now worth a staggering £5bn to the UK economy and supports almost 41,000 jobs.

A report by research group 4-consulting which examined the contribution whisky makes to the UK economy found that it is now the third biggest industry in Scotland, behind energy and financial services.

Using a “value added” measure, to economic contribution, the whisky industry surpasses several other large British industries including the steel, iron, computing, textile and ship-building industries.

In Scotland, whisky far outstrips industries including tourism and the creative and digital sectors.

The drink makes up 70% of the entire Scottish food and drink sector.

The vast majority of whisky produced is exported. Exports bring in £4.3bn to the UK economy every year. The total of the entire UK food and drink exports is £19.4bn.

Whisky drinking apparatus

A traditional Scottish whisky drinking pipe

The report comes as the Scotch Whisky Association launches its “drop the duty” campaign – calling for a 2% cut in duty.

According to the body, UK consumers pay 78% tax on an average bottle of whisky, and 60% on an average bottle of wine.

A report by EY found that a 2% cut in duty would have the effect of increasing the wine and spirits industry’s contribution to economic activity by £3.9bn.

Scotch Whisky Association chief executive David Frost said: “Given the scale and impact of the scotch whisky industry, we believe the government should show its support. It is unfair on the industry and consumers, and detrimental to the economy, that almost 80% of the average price of a bottle of scotch is taxation,” the Guardian reports.

But the Treasury is so far resisting any pressure to lower taxation on Scotch. According to the Guardian, a Treasury spokeswoman said: “Scotch whisky is a huge British success story – to support the industry we ended the spirits duty escalator and froze the duty on whisky and other spirits at last year’s budget. That means a bottle of Scotch whisky is now 42p cheaper than it would have been if the escalator had continued. The government has also introduced the spirits verification scheme. This will help protect the integrity and high reputation of Scotch whisky by helping consumers in the UK and abroad to identify genuine products and avoid fakes.”

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