Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Councillor stirs booze cruise row on border

The cross-border booze cruise has been a feature of retail life in Ireland for many years — and thanks to devolution, it’s about to hit Great Britain.

A row has broken out over whether English towns should promote cheap booze to Scots when a minimum price per unit is introduced north of the border next year.

Members of the Labour group on Northumberland County Council suggested the authority might miss out on a “golden opportunity” by not setting aside cash to entice Scottish drinkers with an advertising campaign.

Earlier this year the Scottish Parliament agreed on plans to set a minimum price per unit of alcohol at 50p, which should come into force in April.

Border towns here such as Londonderry and Newry have in the past benefited from cross-border shoppers buying cheaper booze.

However, Health Minister Edwin Poots intends to follow the Scottish lead in Northern Ireland with a minimum price per unit of around 50p next year. The move is intended to reduce the devastating effect of binge-drinking.

But a knock-on effect could see trippers head to England on booze cruises, and the potential of a bonanza for retailers there.

Northumberland County Council's Labour group economic spokeswoman Susan Davey said: “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 ad campaign, Carlisle with its easy motorway access will win this race.”

The statement was branded irresponsible and ridiculous by Alnwick's Conservative county councillor Gordon Castle.

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