Opinion - Beer Duty

The brewing and pubs industries contribute over £1.7 billion to the Scottish economy and support the employment of 60,000 people. I also recognise the crucial role that pubs play in the social and economic life of our nation, as well as helping to promote responsible drinking.

It was announced at the 2018 Autumn Budget that duties on beer, cider, and spirits will be frozen across the UK. Myself and my Scottish Conservative and Unionist colleagues passionately campaigned for a spirit duty freeze, so this came as a very welcome decision. This year, the price of a typical pint of beer will be 2p lower than if prices had risen with inflation; the price of a pint of cider will be 1p lower; and the price of a bottle of Scotch whisky will be 30p lower.

This follows the removal of the beer duty escalator in 2013 and the unprecedented cuts and freezes in beer duty since then, as well as the removal of the duty escalator for spirits, wine and cider in 2014. I am pleased that the Government was able to deliver this, in order to support our great Scottish spirits distilleries, our cider producers, our brewing industry and our local pubs.

In Scotland, business rates relief is a devolved matter, and therefore the responsibility of the Scottish Government. I understand many of the pubs across Scotland pay in excess of £10,000 a year in business rates, which represents a significant cost. In 2018, the Scottish policy convener of the Federation of Small Businesses said there is "a long-term optimism gap between a typical firm in Scotland and their counterparts elsewhere in the UK."

Aberdeen has been hit particularly hard by punitive business rates, not affecting the brewing and pubs industries but all sectors of the local economy. It is important that the Scottish Government listen to the concerns of small businesses, including pubs and brewers, in order to help their confidence to grow.