Cross-border booze trips to beat alcohol price hike ‘unlikely’

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Health Secretary Shona Robison has said bringing in a minimum unit price for alcohol in Scotland is not predicted to lead to trips south of the border to stock up on cheap drink.

The Scottish Government plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol of 50p a unit on May 1, becoming the first country in the world to do so.

Questioning the Health Secretary at Holyrood, the SNP’s Christine Grahame asked: “Does the Cabinet Secretary see booze cruises down the Tweed to Berwick being an issue, or white van man or woman down the A1 endeavouring to thwart the legislation?”

Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame asked about 'booze cruises' (Scottish Parliament/PA)
Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame asked about ‘booze cruises’ (Scottish Parliament/PA)

Ms Robison replied: “It’s unlikely in our opinion that the preferred price of 50p per unit would make it worth people’s while to travel as it would cost them in terms of fuel and time.”

She said cross border sales would be one of aspects being monitored once the policy is in place.

Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs asked if consideration would be given to increasing the unit price in future.

Ms Robsion said: “Of course we will keep the rate under review to ensure it delivers the desired outcomes for the people of Scotland but we believe that the 50p rate is the right rate and there’s no current plans to change that.”

She said all the modelling has focused on the 50p unit price and a majority of people consulted backed that rate.

The consultation found almost three quarters (74.3%) in favour of a 50p minimum unit price, although some organisations called for it to be higher.

Ms Robison said the rate provides a balance between public health and market intervention, and is predicted to lead to 392 fewer alcohol related deaths and more than 8,000 fewer alcohol-related hospital admissions.

Labour’s health spokesman Anas Sarwar said the policy will create a “windfall” for supermarkets and called for a levy to be brought in to ensure the extra cash goes towards public health.

The health secretary said the government currently “don’t know” who will benefit from the revenue raised and said this had to be set against an expected reduction in sales for some products.

The proposed minimum unit price introduction in May follows lengthy delays through a legal challenge from the Scotch Whisky Association.