The UK market for Scotch Whisky declined by 3% last year, according to the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

The number of 70cl bottles of Scotch Whisky released for sale in the UK fell to 87.5m in 2013 from 90m the previous year.

The SWA said this is further evidence that the alcohol duty escalator, introduced in 2008, is damaging the sector. Tax on Scotch Whisky has risen by 44% over five years, it pointed out, with 79% of the average price of a bottle of Scotch now made up of tax, including VAT.

David Frost, SWA chief executive, said: “It’s obviously disappointing to see this decline in Scotch Whisky volumes in our domestic market. In next week’s Budget the Chancellor has the perfect opportunity to support a vital Scottish industry. He should scrap the unfair alcohol duty escalator and freeze duty this year. This move would also benefit consumers and public finances.”