I am aware of the substantial economic contribution made by pubs, breweries and microbreweries in Scotland. The brewing and pub industry supports the employment of 60,000 people in Scotland, contributing £1.6 billion to the Scottish economy and generating £972 million in tax revenues. It is part of a wider food and drink industry which is a vital sector of Scotland’s economy.
For that reason, I believe it to be important that the sector is supported appropriately. My SNP colleagues and I have long supported a wider overhaul of the alcohol duty regime, towards basing it on the alcohol content of drinks. This would represent a better, fairer, evidence-based way of taxing alcohol. The SNP Treasury Spokesperson Stewart Hosie tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill in 2009 that would have allowed for evidence-based policy making, making the level of alcohol liquor duty required to be levied on each type of drink on an equitable basis based on the alcohol content.
This tax remains reserved to Westminster and I am disappointed that the Chancellor did not take the opportunity that the Budget offered to review the approach to taxation of alcohol.
Where the Scottish Government does have power, we have made an effort to support small pubs and breweries. In February, the Scottish Government announced a one year cap on business rate increases in Scotland for the hospitality sector, which the Scottish Beer and Pubs Association suggest will save Scottish pubs around £6 million, with Scottish pubs standing to benefit by an average of £4,700. Many microbreweries in Scotland will also benefit from the Small Business Bonus Scheme, which provides 100% rates relief on business property up to a rateable value of £15,000, and will benefit 100,000 businesses in Scotland this year.