Boris Johnson has suggested the Scotch whisky industry could be in line for financial support in the forthcoming Budget.
The sector has been battered by US export tariffs and the pandemic over the last year, putting the future of many distilleries at risk.
Industry insiders have said a 5% cut in taxes would give some vital breathing room and would also aid the Chancellor in his mission to rally the economy.
Asked about industry support at prime minister’s questions, Mr Johnson said: “I don’t want to anticipate the Budget, but I know Chancellor Rishi Sunak habitually does things to support fantastic industries such as Scotch whisky.”
Donald Trump imposed 25% tariffs on Scotch whisky and a number of other British exports in October 2019 as retaliation for the EU’s illegal subsidies to plane-maker Airbus.
In August last year the tariff was renewed for another 180 days, so far costing the sector £500 million in lost exports.
Scotch whisky industry one of ‘jewels in the crown’
Shadow Scotland secretary Ian Murray asked this morning whether the government was “singing from the same hymn sheet” in when it came to tariffs.
He told the Commons: “One of the jewels in the crown of the Scottish economy is the Scotch whisky industry and distillers are deeply angry that they continue to pay the price for a trade dispute not of their making with the United States.
“They are losing £30 million a month in trade with the imposition of tariffs. That’s on top of the collapse of their markets due to Covid.
“No progress has been made so can ministers guarantee that the government is fully singing from the same hymn sheet to end tariffs on Scotch whisky?”
Reaching out to Joe Biden
Scotland Office minister Iain Stewart responded: “I absolutely agree with Mr Murray that this is a vital industry for Scotland’s economy and the tariffs are hurting.
“Britain made a bold and generous offer unilaterally to the US to try to break the impasse that it has with the EU.
“Unfortunately, we were not able to secure a deal with President Trump before he left office but I did speak to Trade Secretary Liz Truss yesterday and she has reassured me it is her top priority while engaging with the new Biden administration.”