The head of the Scotch Whisky Association has welcomed the extension of the alcohol duty freeze in today's Budget but added there continue to be "great inequalities" in alcohol taxation in the UK.

Mark Kent said with cost pressures hurting bars and pubs throughout the UK, the decision by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to keep duty rates at their present levels until February 2025 will provide "some much-needed certainty and stability for the year ahead". He added that the move will incentivise investment and, "as with previous cuts and freezes", boost Treasury revenue.

“Despite this freeze, Scotch whisky is still put at a disadvantage by the duty system, based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how people consume alcohol and modern drinking trends," Mr Kent said.

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"With today’s freeze cider is still taxed four times less than a spirit like Scotch whisky and responsible consumers who enjoy a Scotch are paying too much tax compared with a beer or cider.

"Looking ahead, we will continue to work with the UK Government to ensure that our tax system is supporting the long-term success and prosperity of our iconic homegrown sectors such as Scotch whisky, so that Scotch and other high-quality spirits are not put at a competitive disadvantage in the UK and other markets around the world.”

Traditionally, alcohol duty rates rise annually in line with inflation but chancellors have during the past decade opted to freeze it.

Presenting his Spring Budget earlier this afternoon, Mr Hunt told the Commons: “In the Autumn Statement I froze alcohol duty until August of this year. Without any action today, it would have been due to rise by 3%.”

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He said he had listened to representations from MPs about the tax, adding: “So today I have decided to extend the alcohol duty freeze until February 2025."

The Chancellor has frozen duty across all four alcohol categories meaning that the duty rate on spirits remains at the current level of £31.64 per litre of pure alcohol. This means that of the average price of £15.63 for a bottle of Scotch, £11.40 is collected in taxation through duty and VAT – a tax burden of 73%.

The duty freeze has more broadly been welcomed as a victory for bars and pubs, many of which are still struggling to recover from business lost during the Covid pandemic.  Figures published in January from CGA/NielsenIQ showed that the number of licensed premises in Britain fell by 3.6% from 103,682 to 99,916 in the year to September, marking the first time that the total has dropped below 100,000.