ROBERT Burns once opined: "WI’ usquabae, we’ll face the devil!”, and in a week when Scots everywhere toast the National Bard with a dram the whisky industry has been celebrating too at seeing the back of the devilish Donald Trump.

Trump’s departure from the White House has raised hopes among distillers that his successor, Joe Biden, will be more open to a trade deal which will do away with the prohibitive 25% tariff on its product.

Whisky has been a big casualty of the US-EU Boeing-Airbus dispute which has dragged on since 2019.

Now though with a more internationalist president in the White House, the Scotch whisky sector is hopeful that the tariff may soon be history.

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Karen Betts, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), said: “There is deep disappointment across the Scotch whisky industry that distillers are still paying the price for an aerospace dispute that has nothing to do with us.”

While Scotch whisky awaits to see what progress Trade Secretary Liz Truss makes with new US trade representative Katherine Tai, the sector it is fighting a battle on the home front too for a fairer deal.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer issued this challenge last week: “It is imperative that Boris Johnson and Liz Truss do not forget about the Scottish whisky industry in discussions between the UK and US. Resolving this issue must be high up on the UK’s agenda.”

The industry has been lobbying Chancellor Rishi Sunak hard to cut the excessive tax on whisky, which stands at 70%.

This means that around £3 in every £4 spent on whisky in the UK goes to the Treasury in excise and VAT.

Many in the sector believe they are being unfairly penalised compared to other alcohol and have called for industry reform.

The Treasury’s own Call for Evidence review concluded that “when compared on per unit basis the duty system as a whole is highly inconsistent”.

Per unit of alcohol, Scotch Whisky – and other spirits – are taxed 16% more than wine (12% abv), 51% more than beer (5% abv) and 256% more than cider (5% abv).

The SWA presented a submission to Sunak ahead of his March 3 budget arguing with figures, based on modelling by the Centre for Economic and Business Research, that an additional £748 million in duty and VAT can be created over a three-year period by cutting excise duty on spirits by 5%. Betts added: “The last year has been very challenging for the Scotch whisky industry, with the combined impact of Covid-19 and US tariffs.

“Scotch whisky producers, large and small, are facing considerable losses and, as a result, we are urging the Chancellor to cut spirits duty in the budget.

“A cut in duty will also help the hospitality sector, with pubs, bars and restaurants across the UK crying out for continued support.

“The industry is not going cap in hand to the Chancellor – but in order that we can be a partner in recovery the Chancellor must use the tax system to help grow the economy.

“A cut in spirits duty will deliver additional revenue for the Government as well as supporting our industry as we absorb millions of pounds of losses as a result of UK Government subsidies to aerospace, which sparked the trade dispute that has seen 25% tariffs on exports of Scotch whisky to the United States.

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“With £450m in losses to date, and counting, jobs and businesses are now at risk, in Scotland and throughout our UK supply chain.

“The industry needs a package of support from the UK Government while distillers continue to face crippling tariffs, and the Chancellor can start by cutting duty in the budget.”

In the spirit of Burns, the issue of whisky has brought together some unlikely allies with cross-party support emerging over what steps need to be taken.

Drew Hendry, SNP MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, whose seat is deep in the heart of whisky country, said: “Whisky is very important in my constituency and of course for Scotland as a whole for its export potential and the jobs that it brings to that community.”

Jamie Stone, LibDem MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, echoed that sentiment, saying: “We’re talking about high-quality jobs in some of the most remote parts of Scotland.”

Even Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross pledged his support to the industry, saying: “Clearly the US tariffs are having a big impact and the UK Government is working flat out to address this issue and we look forward to a budget where I know that strong representations are being made on behalf of the industry.

“We are supporting our iconic Scotch whisky industry every inch of the way.”

And now that is something we can all toast.