Tory leadership candidate vows to continue ‘Scotch whisky boom’

Conservative party leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt Credit: Michal Wachucik/PA

Prime ministerial hopeful Jeremy Hunt will pledge to undertake a review of spirits duty to help the “Scotch whisky boom” continue after Brexit.

The Foreign Secretary, who is up against Boris Johnson in the contest to succeed Theresa May, said the move formed part of his “vision” to restore Scotland’s economy to its “historic strength”.

Mr Hunt has already won the backing of Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson and more than half of the party’s MSPs.

Both candidates will use a leadership hustings in Perth on Friday to try to win over rank-and-file members – with a poll having already warned that more than half (53%) of Scots could vote for independence if Mr Johnson becomes the next PM.

Mr Hunt said his commitment to the Union was “second to none” as he highlighted the important role that exports and green technology could have in growing Scotland’s economy.

Writing in the Times newspaper, he stated: “I have a vision to restore Scotland’s economy to its historic strength by looking to the industries of the future.

“The entire country can become a green Silicon Valley and an exporting powerhouse that leads the UK, not the other way around.

“Historically, Scotland has excelled at promoting ideas and inventions globally.

“Where there is an existing market advantage – in fintech, biotech, or the food and drink industry – I will seek to drive that home.”

He added: “That means a review of spirit duty to establish the best path to economic growth and the most tax revenue.

“Scottish whisky has an in-built, natural and nostalgic advantage over its competitors.

“But we cannot get complacent, there are markets that must be seized in South America and Asia.

“If we deliver a good Brexit deal and follow it with the right trade deals, we can continue the Scottish whisky boom.”

SNP depute leader Keith Brown hit out at Jeremy Hunt and his Tory leadership rival, Boris Johnson Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

Karen Betts, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: “Currently, £3 in every £4 spent on Scotch whisky is collected in tax, damaging our national and international competitiveness.

“The Scotch whisky industry is a success story. It has delivered £500 million in investment in the UK in the last five years, and is creating jobs and investment, and generating revenues for public services.

“Reforming alcohol tax to ensure fairness and continuing the duty freeze is an important step towards future competitiveness.”

SNP depute leader Keith Brown claimed that both the Foreign Secretary and Mr Johnson were “rabid Brexiteers” whose appointment as PM would be “an utter disaster for Scotland”.

Mr Brown said both Tory candidates would “happily ignore the fact that Scotland voted to remain in Europe, and hammer our economy by dragging us off the Brexit cliff-edge”.

He added that they have “some big questions to answer” over whether they would “undo the damage of a decade of Tory austerity” and also if they would “remove the very imminent threat of a Holyrood power-grab under the guise of Brexit”.

He also insisted they should “accept that the people of Scotland have the right to decide what sort of country they want – instead of contemptible highhandedness of Westminster Governments telling us that we can’t”.