Scotch Whisky exports up to £4 billion after five years of declining sales


The figures published by the Scotch Whisky Association are impressive if confusing in places:

  1. Exports up 5% on 2015 to 1.2 billion bottles
  2. There’s something a bit odd, to me about the number of bottles and total value. 1.2 billion bottles sold for only £4 billion means less than £3 a bottle. Enlighten me someone?
  3. ‘Reaching fragile local economies that other global export businesses can’t reach.’ Again, can someone enlighten me on that? Does it mean rich bastards in poor countries are still buying our whisky?
  4. Employs more than 10,000 workers
  5. Generates almost £540 million in salaries for its direct employees,
  6. Adds around £5 billion of value to the UK economy
  7. Supports salaries worth £1.3 billion in Scotland alone and
  8. Is the biggest single net contributor to UK trade in goods.
  9. Supports 7,000 rural jobs in Scotland and as many as 40,000 more jobs across the UK.

So that’s good news, presumably reinforcing my previous headline:

With only 8% of the population, Scotland accounts for more than 28% of UK food and drink exports. Too wee to survive on our own?


7 thoughts on “Scotch Whisky exports up to £4 billion after five years of declining sales

  1. Bugger (the Panda) September 7, 2017 / 2:21 pm

    The SWA put bulk whisky exports in their stats as bottle equivalents.

    They, old figure before 2015 I think, say of a wholesale av price of £10.85, VAT is £1.62 and Alcohol Duty is £6.66 leaving a before tax price of £2.57

    So £3 seems reasonable. Think they will get more for single Malts but less for “cheaper” blends and liquid bulk


    • Bugger (the Panda) September 7, 2017 / 3:50 pm

      Oh, it depends which Software the blog is written in. One doesn’t allow brackets and another does. Had to change password and somehow flipped back

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ludo Thierry September 7, 2017 / 9:56 pm

    Hi John – Hi M.le Panda.

    Had a quick scan at the linked article and – like John – found it pretty messy and not easy to track down detail. Interesting that it discusses ‘bottles’ sold/exported. My belief is that the traditional unit to discuss whisky (spirit) sales/exports was in terms of ‘cases’ (I believe a case = 9litres).

    The 10,000 (approx) direct employees in Scotland fits with figures I saw in a (better) article I recently found on an Irish financial matters website.

    As M. le Panda explained the average bottle of whisky sold in Scotland (and rest of UK) carries approx 79% duty/tax – so the exports are, naturally, sold at a much lower price (with relevant duties/taxes to be imposed in the markets in which they are ultimately sold). I haven’t tried any calculations (too tired) but the article is probably reasonably close.

    Interesting to look at the figure quoted for pay/salaries of £540M. Divided between 10,000 employees I make that £54,000 per employee. Given that the vast bulk of employees will receive nothing close to that I think it safe to assume that a certain small element of ’employees’ are in receipt of very dramatically high remuneration.

    ‘Twas ever thus – as the saying has it.

    Did anyone notice a piece in the Guardian by a Chris Bryant who has authored a book published today (‘Entitled – A Critical History of the British Aristocracy’)?

    We’ve probably all seen the stats before – but worth reminding ourselves of the landholding pattern we have inherited (and which the benign Union has continued to promote for 3 centuries):

    ‘The figures for Scotland are even more striking. Nearly half the land is in the hands of 432 private individuals and companies. More than a quarter of all Scottish estates of more than 5,000 acres are held by a list of aristocratic families. In total they hold some 2.24m acres, largely in the Lowlands. ‘

    The pooling and sharing of the greatest union in the history of the world (TM Better Together) certainly provides a generous tax position for some:

    ‘Income is subject to tax, but the patrimonial asset remains intact. In 1995, the 9th Duke of Buccleuch complained that the Sunday Times Rich List had overestimated his worth at £200m, as he owned “no shares in Buccleuch Estates Ltd”. Legally, he was quite correct. Despite being a parent company for a string of valuable joint ventures and property holdings, the company is vested in four Edinburgh shareholder lawyers at a total value of £4. Since today’s directors are the 10th duke, the duchess, their heir, the Earl of Dalkeith, and the duke’s two brothers, John and Damian, it is difficult not to conclude that the Buccleuchs are in reality the beneficial owners.’

    It is a favourite theory of our Britnat chums that the Scots are Too Poor and Too Stupid to govern ourselves. It certainly isn’t a charge that can be levelled at the aristos who carry Scots’ titles – see below re. the shenanigans of House of Lords attendance and expenses for some bloke called the Duke of Montrose:

    ‘In March 2016, when the Lords sat for 15 days, 16 earls were paid £52,650 between them in tax-free attendance allowance, plus travel costs, and 13 viscounts received £43,050. The Duke of Somerset claimed £3,600, and the Duke of Montrose was paid £2,750 plus £1,570 in travel costs: £76 for the use of his car, £258 for train tickets, £1,087 for air tickets and £149 for taxis and parking costs. The duke spoke in debate or in grand committee just twice in the whole parliamentary session, and not at all that March.’

    Nobody – not even the most rabid Britnat – is going to convince me that that Duke bloke (with a Scottish title) is less than perfectly able to look after himself. (and then some!)

    We have to laugh because it is all so tragic – but things will be done differently in the new and better Indy Scotland.

    Cheers all, Ludo


  3. Contrary September 8, 2017 / 7:08 am

    Hi all,

    Firstly, highly entertained as I was by John’s interpretation of no. 3 ‘Reaching fragile local economies that other global export businesses can’t reach.’ I have been deeply confused by what they could mean myself, so read the, indeed, badly written piece – not clear is it? John, I commend you on your summary, you are extremely good at extracting and interpreting information! Anyway, if you skim read the relevant paragraph using your peripheral vision, the preceding babble talks of small distilleries opening all over the place – so I think they mean that rural and urban places in Scotland are fragile local economies that don’t get to export globally normally (when they make cheese or sheds or such?) so the whisky association must be a bit of a saviour.

    Thank you for elucidating the price of whisky Panda, it makes you wonder why they are fighting tooth and nail the minimum pricing law when it is unlikely to affect the distillery selling price (can you get any cheaper for a bottle of spirits? Do they give the cheap stuff away free?) as most of the costs are taxes and mark-ups. I do hope the whisky people fighting this law are summarily thrown out of court, and made to pay damages for delaying things.

    Good info Ludo, you’ve commented on land ownership in Scotland before, but I think I forgot to reply before it was lost to the mists of time and the Internet. There has been some land reform, but not enough, right enough, from the Scottish government – I come from Perthshire which has a serious number of lairds, and land is hard to come by for the normal everyday person, and house prices rurally are astronomical (particularly considering work is hard to come by). Some of the lairds run tenancies as businesses and can almost act as social landlords, but this depends on the person on charge, which is hereditary and open to changing without recourse – good old feudal system. The amount of land owned by mystery companies, i.e. no one, horrified me – is our country just a tax-avoidance playground perhaps? While the people living and working here scrape by in the ditches between public and private big land owners. Central belt urbanites appear to have no clue as to how it works in the biggest part of the country – we have swathes of land, resources, but it is mostly controlled by a few. Thank goodness we don’t have trespassing laws, though I have seen some landowners try to deter visitors to their land using potentially lethal means (many years ago now, and quite a scandal at the time. An Italian name if I remember correctly,,,).

    “‘Twas ever thus” ,,, but, indeed, it does not need to be forever thus.

    If we want local rural economies, and social communities to thrive, we need rid of the current system of land ownership – it is unsustainable. In my own glens, the population dropped from possibly tens of thousands back in the 11th century to just hundreds today – the land can sustain much larger populations & indeed the hills are littered with the remains of houses and villages – but without access to use of the land, there is no economy, no work, and what there is is low paid so people are perpetually stuck with struggling to get by. While the people that own the land are often working in London in their self-perpetuating rich-people jobs contributing little to local community and economy.


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