PLANS to attract Scots on “booze cruise” trips to northern English towns after a minimum alcohol price is introduced have been set out by political leaders south of the Border.
Labour councillors on Northumberland County Council are warning the area could miss out on a “golden opportunity” by not setting aside cash to entice Scottish drinkers with an advertising campaign.
But the plans were slammed as “utterly irresponsible” by Nationalist politicians north of the Border, while Labour in Scotland distanced itself from the move.
A minimum price of 50p is scheduled to be introduced next April after being endorsed by MSPs earlier this year, in an effort to tackle Scotland’s relationship with alcohol.
The move is facing a legal challenge from the whisky industry, but one knock-on effect could see trippers heading to England on “booze cruises”.
Northumberland County Council’s Labour group 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.”
The UK Government is also considering introducing a minimum price for alcohol south of the Border, so the cheaper deals in England may not last long. But the plan was derided by MSPs representing the South of Scotland.
Nationalist Paul Wheelhouse said: “This is an utterly irresponsible idea from Labour. There are far better ways for a council to use their time and money than by promoting the sale of discounted alcohol. Northumberland is a wonderful part of England, rich in historical provenance and blessed with natural beauty that would attract any visitor. It would be far better for councillors to promote that than to think cut-price booze deals are what will bring Scots tourists across the Border.”
Liberal Democrat MSP for the South of Scotland, Jim Hume, added: “Instead of looking for ways to manipulate new laws, the Labour group should get on with challenging attitudes to alcohol.”
The statement was also attacked by Alnwick’s Conservative county councillor, Gordon Castle. “We want to promote Alnwick, we want Scottish tourists, but we don’t want booze tourists,” he said. “It’s so bizarre, I didn’t think they were serious.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the looming minimum price in England, along with the “considerable distance” that most Scots live from the Border lessened the prospect of a booze-cruise culture.
“It is highly unlikely that a minimum price, that will only affect a proportion of alcohol sales, would make it worth their while to travel as it would cost people in terms of fuel and time,” she said.
A Scottish Labour spokesman said the party had warned of such “cross-Border issues”.