The police in Berwick are still shovelling drunks off the streets and into cells every Friday and Saturday night and often other nights as well. The problem here seems at the moment to be no worse and no better than anywhere else. (I've always thought there are more unpleasant drunks in Alnwick, but that's a controversial view.) The situation could though be about to get completely out of hand. The Scottish government is introducing a legal minimum price for a unit of alcohol which would have the effect of raising prices on many of the most popular drinks, particularly those sold very cheaply by supermarkets. I'm all in favour of this. The problem is that it's not a UK wide policy yet. Holyrood is going ahead with the scheme while Westminster dithers. The result will be that alcoholic drinks in Scotland will suddenly become more expensive than in England. And what do you think that's going to mean for Berwick? Yes - car loads of Scots driving to our local supermarkets to stock up. If they take it home before they drink it that might not be so bad, but my guess is that we'll also see a lot of inebriated Scots staggering along the river paths to join the inebriated English who are already a permanent fixture there.
This issue turned into a party political row when the Labour group on Northumberland County Council called on the council to seize the opportunity to promote the north of the county as a 'booze cruise' destination for Scots. I grieve to see members of the Labour party lose touch so completely with their temperance roots. They were promptly condemned by the Liberal Democrats on the council and by our local MP Alan Beith, who is a LibDem and an active Methodist. I don't think they meant us to take the term 'cruise' literally, they were just using the analogy of those day trips across the Channel to stock up at the Calais hypermarket. My local newsagent though seemed to have taken it that way when we discussed the matter as he sold me my copy of the 'Tiser last week. The only place cruises would be able to sail from would be Leith, he said, and would it be worth the fare? Don't laugh- it all depends how many cans you buy after you dock.
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