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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 May, 2004, 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK
SNP claims whisky tax 'climbdown'
Whisky tax stamps
Stamps will be added to bottles from 2006
The Scottish National Party has accused the UK Government of a U-turn over its policy on duty stamps on whisky bottles.

Nationalists claim that the Department of Trade and Industry said in 1997 that such a move would be "ineffective" in dealing with spirit fraud.

SNP leader John Swinney said the measure would harm rather than help the industry.

A Treasury spokesman said rising levels of spirit fraud had to be tackled.

The whisky industry is opposing Chancellor Gordon Brown's controversial proposals to introduce stamps in 2006 and claims thousands of jobs are at risk.

The Treasury believes the present level of fraud costs the Exchequer 600m a year and said about 160m could be recovered through the use of stamps.

The industry is opposed, the unions are opposed and until recently, the UK Government itself was opposed
SNP leader John Swinney
The DTI submission stated that Norway's plan for whisky tax would constitute "a barrier to trade".

It said the scheme would cause practical and technical problems in labelling and storage.

Mr Swinney said fraud should be tackled but claimed the chancellor's measures would not deal with the problem.

"Instead, they will hit small distilleries in particular, cost jobs and damage the industry's competitive position," the SNP leader said.

"The industry is opposed, the unions are opposed and until recently, the UK Government itself was opposed."

The Treasury spokesman said spirit fraud must be challenged, irrespective of the DTI submission.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Scotch Whisky Association said: "With tax stamps to be introduced in 2006 following the passing of this year's finance bill, the industry is now working hard, in consultation with government, to ensure a workable scheme is implemented, causing the least damage possible to distillers, and that the costs are comprehensively mitigated."

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