Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'Booze Cruise' Plans for Scots Slammed; Critics Round on Labour for Cashing in on Price Laws

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'Booze Cruise' Plans for Scots Slammed; Critics Round on Labour for Cashing in on Price Laws

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Black

ACALL for towns in Northumberland to seek a trade boost by targeting cross-border "booze cruisers" from Scotland has been condemned as irresponsible.

The Scottish Government's decision to introduce a minimum price of 50p per unit for alcohol - to help tackle the country's binge drinking epidemic - offers a golden opportunity for towns like Berwick and Alnwick, it is claimed.

The Labour group on Northumberland County Council says funding should be used to promote the county as a destination for people in Scotland who want to beat the price increase and stock up on cheaper alcohol south of the border.

But yesterday the suggestion came under fire from Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith, opposition councillors and local traders, who branded it as "irresponsible" and "daft".

The Scottish Executive agreed in June to bring in the minimum 50p per unit price from April next year in order to tackle Scotland's serious binge drinking problems, which cost the economy about pounds 3.6 billion a year.

It will make the basic price of a bottle of wine in Scotland about pounds 4.70.

The Labour group says it anticipated the move and has asked why the council hadn't set money aside to promote Northumberland as a destination of choice for Scottish booze cruisers.

Yesterday the group's economic spokeswoman, Susan Davey, said: "By not setting aside an adequate advertising budget to promote travel and shopping in Northumberland to the Scots, the county may miss out on this golden opportunity.

"Shops in Berwick, Alnwick and Morpeth, with easy access to the A1, should be preparing to accept a huge increase in trade, but I expect, without an advertising campaign, Carlisle with its easy motorway access will win this race."

Group leader, Grant Davey, said it was not an attempt to cash in on Scotland's crackdown on binge drinking, and Labour was not encouraging people to drink to excess.

He said: "We believe people should be responsible for their own level of alcohol intake. This is an economic argument and an opportunity for Northumberland to get out of the slump. …

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