Scotch whisky industry now contributes £7.1bn to UK economy

Hand holding glass of whisky with Scottish landscape in background

Export sales have soared in recent years amid growing demand for Scotch whisky in key markets such as the USA, France, Singapore, Taiwan, China and India.

The industry contributed £5.3bn to the Scottish economy and £1.8bn in the rest of the UK in 2022, according to the new report from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

Scotch accounts for £3 in every £100 of Scotland’s gross value added (GVA), leaving it second only to energy production in economic importance.

Mark Kent, CEO of the SWA, said: ‘The Scotch whisky industry has once again proven its economic significance to the UK domestically and on the world stage, and these figures highlight the importance of backing a key sector for productivity, exports and employment.’

He noted that the industry has had a ‘turbulent’ five years, including the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and a trade battle between the UK and the USA.

However, it has remained resilient throughout that period. Exports surged by 31% to £6.2bn in the five years to December 31, 2022.

Scotch now adds £273,000 per employee to Scotland’s gross value added, which is a productivity metric used to assess a particular industry’s economic contribution.

However, trade leaders warn that the sector faces significant headwinds as it seeks to maintain that growth in the years ahead.

They include the high tax rates that the UK government applies to spirits sales, a lack of infrastructure investment in Scotland and trade deals that still need to be finalised.

‘Ahead of the UK Spring Budget and this year’s General Election, it is vital that the industry is supported by government so that businesses can continue to invest in the UK economy,’ added Kent.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack pledged to maintain the support for the burgeoning Scotch whisky industry,

‘Scotch is not just Scotland’s but the UK’s most valuable food and drink export and that’s why we’ve given it 10 cuts or freezes in duty at the last 11 Budgets, as well as removing punitive tariffs imposed on the US market,’ he said.

‘We are pushing forward with new and robust global trade agreements that will continue to safeguard the interest of Scotch whisky, ensuring that the unique characteristics and reputation of Scotch are protected.’

Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray added: ‘Continued growth in global markets means more jobs and investment across Scotland. Our communities benefit and it entices visitors and residents to experience the incredible offer we have here in Scotland.

‘The Scottish Government will continue to work with the whisky sector to drive further growth and success.’


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