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Byline: By Magnus Gardham

CANNY shoppers will head for England in carry-out convoys to avoid soaring drink prices in Scotland, store chiefs warned yesterday.

The warning came as the Scottish government announced plans to fix a minimum price for alcohol by the end of the year.

Retail organisations last night warned the border towns of Carlisle and Berwick would become first choice for drinkers looking for bargains - hitting retailers north of the Border hard.

Meanwhile, business leaders south of the Border admitted they were already preparing for the stampede.

The warning came after health secretary Nicola Sturgeon unveiled a major crackdown on Scotland's heavy drinking culture.

As part of the plans, a minimum price for alcohol will beset.

It is expected to be about 40p per unit - which would see the price of a bottle of cheap supermarket own brand whisky soar by 40 per cent and vodka by more than 60 per cent.

Dr Bruce Ritson, chairman of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, said: "The action outlined today offers an opportunity to reverse the alcohol-related harm we have seen over the last 30 years."

But the Scottish Retail Consortium, who represent the big supermarkets, said people would head south for cheaper booze and "buy one get one free" offers which will be banned in Scotland.

Director Fiona Moriarty said: "It's human nature to want to get the best possible value.

"In border areas, people will bemore prepared to travel south of the Border to get better value on wines and spirits."

She also warned it could start a "black market" for booze in some places.

Moriarty added: "There will be guys selling at markets and out of the back of a van in housing schemes across Scotland.

"If ministers doubt that, it shows how little they understand the impact of what they are proposing."

The Scottish Grocers' Federation, who represent nearly 6000 stores, also warned shops in Scotland will lose out.

Spokeswoman Katie Mackie said: "If it is convenient for people to shop in, say, Carlisle instead of Dumfries, it will happen.

"Added to the ban on promotions and advertising, this framework will have a devastating impact on independent retailers."

The news is being seen as a "great opportunity" in Carlisle.

Suzanne Caldwell, of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: "I think Scots retailers are right to be worried.

"A lot of people from the south of Scotland already drive to Carlisle for a day out shopping and many would use our supermarkets as well.

"Retailers south of the Border will be doing all they can to take as much business as they can so it is a double whammy for Scots stores but a great opportunity for us down here."


SOUTHERN COMFORT: Deals over border
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 3, 2009
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