A row has broken out over whether English towns should promote cheap booze to Scots when a minimum price per unit is introduced north of the border next year.

Members of the Labour group on Northumberland County Council suggested the authority might miss out on a "golden opportunity" by not setting aside cash to entice Scottish drinkers with an advertising campaign.

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It could be more than the Olympic torch coming to Berwick-Upon-Tweed

Earlier this year the Scottish Parliament agreed on plans to set a minimum price per unit of alcohol at 50p, which should come into force in April. The move was intended to reduce the devastating effect of binge-drinking.

A knock-on effect could see trippers head to England on booze cruises, and the potential of a bonanza for those retailers ready to meet the demand.

Northumberland County Council's Labour group economic spokeswoman Susan Davey said: "By not setting aside an adequate advertising budget to promote travel and shopping in Northumberland to the Scots, the county may miss out on this golden opportunity.

"Shops in Berwick, Alnwick and Morpeth with easy access to the A1 should be preparing to accept a huge increase in trade but I expect, without an advertising campaign, Carlisle with its easy motorway access will win this race."

The statement was branded irresponsible and ridiculous by Alnwick's Conservative county councillor Gordon Castle.
"We want to promote Alnwick, we want Scottish tourists, but we don't want booze tourists," he said.

"It's so bizarre, I didn't think they were serious.

"As responsible councillors, we are supposed to be promoting the town for its visitor attractions."

Mr Castle thought any cross-border increase in alcohol sales would benefit national supermarkets, not local independent stores.

"Frankly, the supermarkets are doing very nicely anyway," he said. "This is not going to help our high street."

Sir Alan Beith, Liberal Democrat MP for Berwick upon Tweed, said: "The county council is engaged in a serious debate, and responding to the Government's consultation about whether minimum pricing for alcohol, which is being tried in Scotland, could help deal with our grave alcohol-related health problems here in the North East.

"It sounds as if Labour does not take these problems seriously, which is pretty irresponsible."

Liberal Democrats on Northumberland County Council have warned of the risks that encouraging 'booze tourism' from Scotland would bring.

Councillor Anita Romer, executive member for health and public protection, said: "I am really disappointed in the attitude taken by Labour.

"We are making good progress in reducing the harm caused by excessive drinking in Northumberland and statements like those made by Labour seriously risk undermining it.

"It would send out mixed messages if we were, on the one hand, encouraging the people who live in Northumberland to drink responsibly, while on the other hand inviting people down from Scotland to, as Labour put it, 'fill their cellars' with cheap drink.

"We believe Northumberland already has plenty to offer tourists from Scotland and elsewhere.

"We have beautiful landscapes here and a wide variety of fantastic attractions.

"Suggesting that we advertise tourism in Northumberland on the basis that a bottle of wine costs a couple of pounds less does our county a huge disservice.

"From 2013, the council will take on an increased role in protecting and improving the public health of the people of Northumberland, and this includes commissioning alcohol services.

"We have an Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy, which we are committed to implementing.

"I hope Labour will reconsider their position on this and will join the Liberal Democrat administration in its efforts to reduce the harm caused by alcohol in Northumberland."