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Moray Chamber of Commerce adds its voice to Scotch Whisky Association call for freeze on alcohol duty in Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn statement

THE Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has been urged to put a freeze on alcohol duty in Thursday’s Autumn statement.

Chief Executive Officer of Moray Chamber of Commerce Sarah Medcraf.Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Chief Executive Officer of Moray Chamber of Commerce Sarah Medcraf.Picture: Daniel Forsyth

The call locally has come from Moray Chamber of Commerce, which says the move is needed support the hospitality sector.

Sarah Medcraf, chief executive of Moray Chamber, said: “The hospitality sector is already on its knees with venues up and down the country having to make the decision to close.

“With increased pressures across the business from staff, interest rates rising, food price hikes to name a few, businesses have already had to increase their prices to survive. This linked with the lower consumer spending habits make for impossible trading conditions.

“Adding the rise in duty on to this is squeezing an industry with nothing left to give.

“In Moray Speyside we are fortunate to have so many great distillers, but the proposed duty rise will cost our region £80 million per year.

“This will impact their ability to invest and sustain in both their infrastructure and their green agenda and will cause a risk to jobs.”

Mrs Medcraf says the chancellor has the opportunity to freeze the alcohol excise duty and in turn receive funds through other channels that would be created.

She added: “Whilst we all appreciate that difficult decisions need to be made to help balance the country’s books, increasing the duty is not the answer.”

Badenoch's on Elgin's High Street which closed last month.
Badenoch’s on Elgin’s High Street which closed last month.

Almost half of the public (48%) would spend less in pubs and restaurants if the government were to increase tax on alcohol, according to a new poll conducted Survation on behalf of the Scotch Whisky Association.

It also found that a third of people (35%) would also be less likely to visits pubs, bars and restaurants were tax on alcohol to increase, while two-thirds (68%) believe tax on alcohol should either be cut or remain at its current level.

The Scotch Whisky Association has called on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to freeze excise duty on all forms of alcohol on November 17 and to rule out any automatic increase by the rate of inflation.

The Association has warned pubs, restaurants and distillers otherwise face a double-digit tax hike, the highest since excise duty was introduced in 1643, at a time of falling consumer confidence and reduced disposable income.

Mark Kent, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: “Pubs, bars and restaurants have been devastated by two years of Covid and are facing huge pressures because of rising costs and the squeeze on household incomes.

“We’re urging the Chancellor to help these businesses by freezing alcohol excise duty and ruling out any automatic increase by inflation, which would represent the biggest increase in the tax since 1643.

“Freezing duty has always proven beneficial for the Treasury. Businesses like Scotch Whisky distillers have invested, innovated and generated more for the public finances than if the government increased what is already the highest rate in the G7 countries.

“Mr Hunt can generate more from a freeze and meet the public’s expectation that the government uses tax policy to help vulnerable businesses like pubs.”

A spokesperson for the UK Spirits Alliance said: “Pubs and restaurants are already warning they face closure because of rising costs. They can ill-afford an inflationary increase in duty, which will also hurt distilleries. The spirits industry has always responded to stability through investment that has generated more revenue that the Treasury would get from increasing what is already one of the highest excise levels in the world.

“We would urge the Chancellor to freeze duty across all forms of alcohol, protecting what are often small or micro-businesses, in addition consumers, irrespective of what they choose to consume responsibly.”

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