Northumberland council in 'booze bus promotion' row

Susan Davey
Image caption Ms Davey said a "golden opportunity" may be missed

A row has broken out over whether English towns should encourage Scottish drinkers to visit on "booze runs".

The Northumberland Labour Group said a "golden opportunity" to run a campaign to lure drinkers from north of the border could be missed.

However, Alnwick Conservative councillor Gordon Castle said the idea was "irresponsible".

The debate comes ahead of an alcohol price hike in Scotland next year in a bid to tackle binge drinking.

From April, one unit of alcohol will cost a minimum of 50p in Scotland, meaning a basic bottle of wine will be £4.70 compared with England, where it is around £3.50.

Northumberland's Labour group said it saw promoting "booze runs" as a way of driving up spending in the county's towns.

Leader Grant Davey said: "People have a choice about how much they drink - we need to get Northumberland out of poverty."

'Prepare for increase'

The group's economic spokeswoman Susan Davey said money should be set aside to promote the county as a destination for "booze cruises".

"Tourism into England has an opportunity to grow second to none. 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."

A Scottish government spokesman said the cost of fuel to travel to England would probably cancel out any savings made buying cheaper alcohol.

'Not worthwhile'

He said: "Introducing a minimum price per unit will enable us to tackle Scotland's problem with alcohol and save lives.

"The UK government is now considering introducing a minimum price for alcohol in England, and in any event most Scots live a considerable distance from the border.

"Therefore, 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."

Conservative councillor Mr Castle said English towns needed tourists not drinkers.

"We want to promote Alnwick, we want Scottish tourists, but we don't want booze tourists," he said.

"As responsible councillors, we are supposed to be promoting the town for its visitor attractions. It's so bizarre, I didn't think they were serious.

"Frankly, the supermarkets are doing very nicely anyway. This is not going to help our High Street."

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