Booze cruise trips to town are forecast

Booze cruises to Berwick have been predicted as a result of new minimum pricing rules being brought in north of the border.

Friday, 24th November 2017, 10:24 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 10:06 am
The English-Scottish border near Berwick.

Experts believe more Scottish residents are likely to make the trip to Berwick as a consequence of a Supreme Court ruling which will see minimum unit pricing for alcohol in Scotland from May 1.

Chris Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, felt it was certain that some Scots would journey south, similar to holidays to the continent taken by English drinkers looking for cheap French wine.

“People, particularly if they live near the border, could pop over if they’re having a wedding or a party or something,” he said. “Places like Berwick would be appealing. Between the north and south of Ireland you get ‘bandit country’, though it’s obviously quite a different situation there.”

“I think it would certainly be of concern to the retailers in the south of Scotland who might be affected by it,” he said, adding that another side effect could be a black market as Scots buy cheaper alcohol to sell at home.

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Stephen Scott, secretary of Berwick Chamber of Trade, agreed: “I think Scots will cross the border. With the current retailing offering in Berwick, it is likely that the supermarkets will be the main retailers to benefit. Even so, any increase in visitor numbers to Berwick is positive and other businesses in Berwick may get a smaller secondary benefit if those on the booze cruise have a look around the town. This may turn out to be one benefit amongst many other challenges and issues that are unique to being a border town.”

Majestic Wines, which has a branch in Berwick, said it did not anticipate a significant impact on its business as all of its products adhere to minimum pricing anyway.

The change is expected to introduce a 50p-per-unit minimum price for alcohol sold in Scotland, although this is subject to consultation.

The 50p-per-unit minimum would raise the price of the cheapest bottle of red wine (9.4 units of alcohol) to £4.69, while a four-pack of 500ml cans of 4% lager (8 units) would cost at least £4 and a 70cl bottle of whisky (28 units of alcohol) could not be sold for less than £14.

Normal strength cider (5% ABV) would cost at least £2.50 a litre but a super-strength version (7.5% ABV) would have to cost a minimum of £3.75 for a litre.

Key weapon

Minimum pricing is largely aimed at cheap lager, cider and spirits sold in supermarkets and off-licences.

But it would leave more expensive drinks unaffected, and is unlikely to impact on sales in pubs and clubs.

Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, Dame Vera Baird QC welcomed the ruling and has called for it to be introduced across the UK.

She said: “Misuse of alcohol can have a crippling impact on families and our wider communities – it is frequently at the heart of issues including domestic abuse and anti-social behaviour.

“I am therefore delighted by today’s judgement that will see minimum unit pricing in Scotland. To see this outcome during national Alcohol Awareness Week is only fitting.

“However it is obvious that the Government should immediately introduce this change across the UK. The most recent available estimates suggest that the introduction of a 50 pence Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) in England would save more than 500 lives a year, reduce hospital admissions by 22,000 and ultimately, cut the cost of alcohol to society by £3.7 billion over 20 years.

“It needs targeted measures to address the cheapest, high-strength drinks associated with the most acute alcohol harm.

“In Northumbria we’ve rolled out a number of initiatives to cope with the ill-effects of alcohol on a night out. Police officers, door staff and street pastors have all completed vulnerability training and The safe haven vans, run With North East Ambulance Service, provide literally a haven for people who need support in the city centre

“Let’s use Alcohol Awareness Week to shine a light on this issue and ensure our own Government does the right thing.”