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Published:  23 July, 2008

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has outlined measures to tackle spirits fraud and to persuade the Government to ditch its tax stamp plan. Chancellor Gordon Brown has warned if a suitable alternative is found, tax stamps will be used from 2006. But whisky producers are united in their opposition to the plan, claiming that the extra costs for the Scotch industry - estimated at 60-70 million a year - will put some smaller producers out of business. The SWA's proposals, which were put to John Healey MP, the economic secretary to the Treasury, last week, include closer co-operation with Customs & Excise, setting up a warehouse fraud task force and a tighter system of financial guarantees. SWA spokesman David Williamson, who said the SWA's proposals would deliver more revenue more quickly and more effectively than tax stamps, added: We do not believe that tax stamps are the most appropriate response. Our experience overseas is that they are very easily forged.' Williamson added with the cost of each tax stamp estimated to be 5.48, companies would be obliged to increase their security: You would effectively be turning a bottling line into a bank.' Laphroaig distillery manager Robin Shields said the Government's is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut': It's a very expensive thing which will cost millions. We applaud any attempt to cut down on fraud, but this is not the way to do it.'