Carlisle could become the next Calais and Belfast the next Boulogne if the Scottish Government’s crackdown on alcohol comes to pass. That’s the prediction of retailers and wholesalers north and south of the border, who believe Scottish shoppers would flock into England and even Northern Ireland in search of cheaper booze, creating booze cruises similar to those between England and France.
The Scottish Government framework for action to tackle alcohol misuse, published this week, includes plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol, ban all alcohol promotions and restrict the display and marketing of alcohol in stores. Local licensing boards would also be given the flexibility to ban off-sales to under-21s.
But shoppers would simply travel to England to bypass legislation, said the BRC. “If there is a difference in pricing between Scotland and England, stores in England can expect an influx of shoppers,” a spokesman said.
Carlisle, 11 miles from the Scottish border, could become the most popular destination. Asda, Tesco and Morrisons all have stores in the town. Morrisons also has a store in Berwick, two-and-a-half miles from Scotland.
Northern Ireland, which is already experiencing an influx of shoppers from the Republic of Ireland following last November’s VAT cut, could also benefit, predicted one wholesaler.
“It would inevitably lead to people going on booze runs to English border towns or even going on the ferry to Northern Ireland to bring back a car load of alcohol,” he said. “It’s typical government intervention – they haven’t a clue what they are trying to do.”
Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the measures were being pushed through to tackle Scotland’s £2.25bn alcohol misuse problem that included 42,500 hospital discharges and 1,500 deaths a year.
The Scottish Retail Consortium said the plans would “alienate shoppers and the trade”, and the ACS branded them “draconian”.