THE Scotch Whisky Association has come under fire for blaming falling UK sales on high taxation, as distillers of blended Scotch were accused of neglecting the domestic market for decades.

The industry body has mounted a high-profile campaign for Chancellor George Osborne to cut spirits duty by two per cent in Wednesday's Budget, claiming that high duty rates have been a key factor as the UK market for Scotch has declined by 9.5 per cent since 2009.

The SWA, which says duty accounts for 78 per cent of the price of a bottle of whisky, cites figures from Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, which show the number of bottles of whisky released for sale fell by five per cent 83.3million last year.

However its stance has been criticised by Mark Reynier, the man who rejuvenated the Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay, who declared the industry has failed to address falling sales since the early 1970s.

Mr Reynier, now developing a distillery in Ireland, said it was disingenuous to say that all whisky is in a decline in the UK, noting that while sales of blends have fallen, single malts have prospered.

Claiming that the industry is still struggling to overcome its "fuddy duddy" image, he said: "The reality is the consumer in the UK has been ignored. They [distillers] are quite happy selling containers of the stuff to Venezula and all around the world. But they have actually failed to address to credible attempt to reinvigorate the blended whisky sector in our home market.

"Ninety per cent is exported as you know, so it [the UK] is a relatively small amount in the scheme of things. So they have gone for the easier fruit in new markets where their marketing power can do great things."

Mr Reynier also said it was wrong for the SWA to campaign for the whole spirits sector, pointing out that while whisky sales have fallen in the UK, sales of gin, rum and vodka have actually prospered.

He said: "What about vodka? I didn't hear them squealing when that was going through the roof. I don't hear them squealing that gin or rum are hugely successful."

Mr Reynier said he will watch with interest the progress of Haig, the old blended Scotch brand which Diageo is rejuvenating with David Beckham playing a starring role.

He added: "Perhaps now is the time for a resurgence - a reassessment of it [blended] Scotch as a drinks sector. Or perhaps it is gone forever, I don't know."

David Frost, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said: "The UK drinks market is becoming increasingly competitive and Scotch whisky is not helped by the onerous level of tax. In its home market Scotch is taxed at almost 80% of the share of the price of an average bottle. Such high taxation is stifling the growth of Scotch in the UK - last year the market declined by almost 5%. That's why we're calling for a 2% cut in excise in this week's Budget.

"Scotch Whisky producers are committed to the UK market and are constantly innovating, from launching advertising campaigns to promote their products, including Blended Scotch, to new audiences, to encouraging some people to try Scotch for the first time by trying out new cocktails, for example."