Food & Beverage

Whisky industry marks Burns Night with call for tax cut

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Wednesday marks the anniversary of poet Robert Burns' birthday, celebrated across the world with dancing, a bite of Haggis and of course, a few nips of whisky.

But on the day Scotland's most famous poet is remembered, the Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) says it is time for the so-called "water of life" to receive a tax cut.

The SWA said in a statement Wednesday that 77 percent of the cost of a bottle of whisky goes to the U.K. taxman and that number needs to fall.

"We are calling on the government to address the high and unfair level of taxation that distillers face in their home market.

"The current tax of 77% on an average priced bottle of Scotch is a burden on consumers and the industry," said Julie Hesketh-Laird, Scotch Whisky Association acting chief executive.

Scotch whisky contributes nearly £5 billion ($6.25 billion) a year to the U.K. economy, according to research commissioned by the industry.

Official U.K. statistics suggest Scottish Whisky was the single biggest net contributor to the UK's balance of trade in 2015 at £3.7 billion with whisky exports estimated to be worth about £4 billion.

The SWA want the U.K. government to cut excise by 2% in next month's Budget, claiming the move would further boost recent growth in the sector.

The industry representative said more than 40,000 jobs were supported by the industry across the UK, including 7,000 in rural areas.

It said an estimated 14 new distilleries have opened up since 2013 and a further 7 are under construction in 2017 alone.

Haggis facts

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Whisky won't be the only heavy seller over the celebration as global sales of haggis hit their annual peak.

Haggis, considered a Scottish delicacy, is a savory pudding containing sheep's offal (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet and spices.

Leading Scottish haggis brand Macsween claim that on Burns night they sell more than a million units of the 'chieftain o' the puddin'-race'.

According to U.K. government figures, the UK exported £4.85 million of haggis to 28 countries between 2011 and 2015. Ireland, France, Spain and Hong Kong are reported as the biggest buyers of haggis outside the UK.