Page last updated at 12:45 GMT, Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Cross-border booze-cruise warning

Booze cruise
Mr Brown said shoppers might cross the border to buy alcohol

An MP has warned that Scottish Government plans to curb cut-price alcohol sales in Scotland could fuel "booze cruises" across the border.

Russell Brown - who represents Dumfries and Galloway - said the moves could turn Carlisle into the new Calais.

He said he believed it was "far too simplistic" to say cheap alcohol was the cause of Scotland's problems.

The SNP has said it will work with the UK Government to look at the pricing of alcohol being brought into the country.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon unveiled the plans on Monday.

I think it's obvious to anyone, except clearly the SNP, that their proposals could end up creating a cross-border 'booze-cruise' culture in our area - with Carlisle becoming Calais
Russell Brown MP

They include proposals to ban discount deals on alcohol and introduce a minimum price per unit of alcohol.

Ms Sturgeon said a "surge in consumption" was causing serious health issues in the country.

However, Labour MP Mr Brown said raising the price of alcohol in Scotland could cause new problems in his constituency which borders England.

He said: "I think it's obvious to anyone, except clearly the SNP, that their proposals could end up creating a cross-border 'booze-cruise' culture in our area - with Carlisle becoming Calais.

"Scotland's issues with problem alcohol consumption are serious, and they require a serious approach.

"It's far too simplistic to say cheap drink is the cause of all the problems, Buckfast, for example, is relatively expensive."

He said a national Challenge 21 scheme or tougher sanctions on anyone breaking licensing laws were more sensible measures.

Carlisle
An MP has said Carlisle could turn into the new Calais

Roxburgh and Berwickshire Tory MSP John Lamont welcomed parts of the proposals targeting off-sales promotions and "irresponsible offers".

However, he voiced concerns that plans for a minimum charge per alcohol unit might see some prices cut.

In addition, he echoed Mr Brown's fears along the stretch of his constituency on the border with England.

"In the Borders this might create a 'booze trip' culture whereby people travel to Berwick or Wooler to stock up on cheaper booze," he said.

"The Scottish Government must consider the wider implications of this policy and whether it intends to allocate extra police resources to manage this."

'Big question'

Dumfriesshire, Tweeddale and Clydesdale Conservative MP David Mundell said much would depend on the price differences across the border.

"I welcome this debate but whether these sorts of measures actually change attitudes to alcohol is the big question," he said.

"Elsewhere where there are significantly different prices then that leads to cross-border traffic.

"If there are very different prices then we would see people would go to supermarkets and off-licences in the north of England."

In outlining its proposals the Scottish Government stressed it would need to work closely with the UK Government to control pricing and promotions of alcohol brought into the country from south of the border.

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