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Former Scottish secretary joins calls for 2% duty cut on whisky

Published:  10 February, 2016

Alistair Carmichael, secretary of state for Scotland in the 2010-15 coalition government, has written to the chancellor George Osborne calling for a further 2% cut in the duty on whisky and other spirits.

Carmichael is the Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland. He is the last remaining Liberal Democrat MP in Scotland.

In his letter to the chancellor, Carmichael wrote: "In government, Liberal Democrat ministers were active supporters of the whisky industry.

"We achieved a 2% cut in the level of duty last year. This has been good for one of our most successful manufacturing and export industries. More now needs to be done.

"The whisky industry is an important part of Scotland's high-volume export brand and it is growing.

"Over the last 18 months, seven new distilleries have opened with a further 30 planned. A further cut in excise would support these home-grown businesses."

Carmichael's voice adds to a chorus of industry bodies urging the chancellor to follow up on cut he announced in the 2015 Budget.

The Scottish whisky industry currently supports more than 40,000 jobs in the UK.

Many of those jobs are in remote and otherwise deprived rural areas with few employment opportunities.

Carmichael's own constituency includes the Scapa and Highland Park distilleries on Orkney.

Longstanding plans to build the first whisky distillery on Shetland, to be called Blackwood, were recently revived.

The Scottish Whisky Association has been running a "Stand Up For Scotch" campaign which highlights the beneficial impact of last year's 2% duty cut on both the whisky trade and the Treasury's finances.

Between April 2015, when the new rate was introduced, and December, the Treasury took an extra £96 million in tax from sales of spirits.

David Frost, chief executive of the SWA, said: "George Osborne listened to the industry last year when we said that a cut on duty would increase confidence, safeguard jobs, help consumers, and thereby ultimately benefit the Treasury.

"We now have the figures to prove it. That's why this year we are asking the Chancellor to continue what he has started.

"Deliver fair tax for whisky, free the industry to invest and grow, and feel the benefit through increased revenue.

"It really is common sense to stand up for Scotch."