SNP members renew calls for ‘task force’ on Scotch whisky industry

Stuart Rodger

SNP members resubmit motion on whisky industry to conference which was rejected last year

SNP members have renewed calls for the Scottish Government to establish a task force to investigate whether Scotland is getting sufficient benefit from its whisky industry. 

The activists have made their calls in a motion to be submitted for SNP conference this year. The motion says: “Conference calls for a task force to consider: How to further develop the employment potential of the Scottish whisky industry; Look at the feasibility of reforming the licensing regime for distilleries; Ensure that more of the revenue raised by the industry stays in Scotland; Examine the feasibility of increasing the revenue from the industry.” 

The motion has been re-submitted after being rejected last year by the party’s Standing Order and Agenda Committee. In an opinion piece published in CommonSpace today, trade unionist Bill Ramsay suggested the whisky industry as a source of income to pay for efforts such as reducing the attainment gap: “One option is the hugely profitable whisky industry. £1bn a year could be levied on the whisky industry and it would still be incomparably profitable.” 

Read more: Bill Ramsay: How Scotland's whisky industry could be an economic key for the future

A report from Biggar Economics from 2012 found that the whisky industry has a 60 per cent profit margin but that only 35 per cent of the industry’s turnover is of “direct economic benefit to Scotland”. Of the £3bn in operating profit, the report said only 7 per cent is reinvested in Scotland.

The report suggested the possibility of a production tax, with estimated revenue of £1 bn if the duty were to be set at £1 per bottle. On the tax’s feasibility within the current constitutional framework, the think tank said: “The Scotland Act 2012 includes provision for the Scottish Government to introduce new taxes, with the agreement of the UK Government.”

The news comes after The Herald disclosed that one of Scotland’s leading whisky brands – Whyte and Mackay – is owned in a Caribbean tax haven by a billionaire named by the Panama Papers. The Herald’s investigation revealed that Whyte and Mackay paid just £172,000 in income tax on pre-tax profits of £24m.

The tycoon in question is Andrew Tan, owner of Emperador International Limited, which also owns the iconic Jura and Dalmore brands. Whyte and Mackay was bought over by Emperador in 2014 from Diageo, after the Office for Fair Trading raised competition concerns. 

Picture courtesy of: Flickr / Phil Long 

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