The SNP’s amendment to the Finance Bill today would only cancel a planned rise in spirits duty for Scotch whisky, ignoring other spirits, leaving drinks producers across Scotland and the UK disadvantaged. This would leave over 90 gin distillers across Scotland facing higher tax rates, including three companies in Orkney (Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin, the Orkney Gin Company and Deerness Distillery) and one in Shetland (Saxa Vord Distillery).
There are over 70 gin distillers in SNP-held seats which would be left disadvantaged by the tax plan, including ten across Ross, Skye and Lochaber in the Highlands. Scotland accounts for approximately 70% of UK gin production.
There are also concerns that the SNP’s proposed amendment would be illegal under international trade rules. Favouring one product subcategory, such as Scotch whisky, is banned under WTO rules.
Mr Carmichael’s own amendment, also debated today, would revert the planned duty hike for all spirits producers.
Speaking ahead of the debate Mr Carmichael said:
“We all know that the SNP have romantic attachments to what they think defines being Scottish. Of course a glass of gin doesn’t look quite as traditional as a box of shortbread or a dram of whisky but it still deserves our support.
“The SNP’s proposed “fix” on spirits duty is utterly myopic. Trying to save taxes for whisky alone leaves other distillers in every corner of Scotland out in the cold. Perhaps the SNP have forgotten how many spirits producers produce more than one product – or that Scotland serves around 70% of UK gin.
“You would think with over 70 gin distillers working in SNP seats they would deserve a little more care and interest from their representatives but for whatever reason they are not getting it. Even so I believe that gin distillers and others in the Northern Isles and across the UK deserve a fair tax settlement.
“Even Scotch whisky distillers do not want this distorted policy from the SNP. Many of them produce gin and other spirits as well and would lose out, to say nothing of the risk that breaching international rules would see to their export trade.
“There is a simple fix to this economic destruction – for Scottish Tories and SNP MPs to back my simple amendment this afternoon, and keep a fair tax settlement for all our spirits producers.”