April 30, 2015 – No matter who wins next Thursday’s UK parliamentary elections, Scotch Whisky drinkers and the whisky industry are likely to come out as winners. That’s because a key Scottish National Party leader is all but ruling out any change in the 2% cut in excise tax and duties on Scotch Whisky and other spirits announced in last month’s budget address by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. Angus Robertson MP, who represents the Moray area in Westminster and leads Parliament’s Scotch Whisky interests along with the SNP delegation, told WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie in an interview at Glen Moray Distillery before the opening dinner for the Spirit of Speyside Festival that “we will be standing up for the interests of Scotch Whisky.”
The Scottish National Party is being seen by many UK observers as the likely winner — no matter how the rest of the vote turns out. Pollsters show the SNP’s slate of candidates across Scotland as likely to win a landslide with as many as 55 of Scotland’s 59 seats in Parliament, while the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats are all likely to wind up with fewer than the 323 seats needed for a majority in the House of Commons. While the SNP has so far ruled out joining a coalition with any of the other parties, party leaders have ruled out any coalition with David Cameron’s Conservatives. While neither side is yet acknowledging the prospects of a likely coalition between Ed Miliband’s Labour Party and the SNP, the nationalists are widely expected to determine whether Miliband replaces Cameron as Prime Minister when all of the ballots are counted.
Cameron’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition announced a 2% cut in duties on Scotch Whisky and other spirits March 18, and observers warned at the time that a change in government could lead to a rollback of that move. Robertson cited two potential outcomes of the election if no party can win a majority: a coalition between SNP and Labour that both sides have so far publicly ruled out, and a “confidence and supply arrangement” between SNP and Labour in which support for specific issues would be negotiated in advance. Labour has already ruled that option out.
“Our relationship in Westminster, should we hold the balance of power, will be on an item-by-item basis when proposals come along, and you have an exclusive…we will be standing up for the interests of Scotch Whisky,” Robertson said. While a Cameron-led government is not expected to revisit the cut in whisky taxes, the Liberal Democrats have indicated that it would be up for review should they wind up in power.
At the time the cut was announced March 18 by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Scotch Whisky Association leaders praised the move and suggested that it could add an additional £1.5 billion pounds ($2.3 billion USD) in the whisky industry’s annual impact on the UK economy, which was estimated in a study released earlier this year at around £5 billion pounds each year.