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Last Updated: Monday, 30 October 2006, 17:04 GMT
Minister meets Buckfast company
Half bottle of Buckfast
The drink's distributors had said Buckfast was being unfairly targeted
The Scottish health minister has met the distributors of a wine made by Benedictine monks, which has been drawn into the battle against binge drinking.

Andy Kerr has expressed concerns about the effects of Buckfast Tonic Wine, produced at Buckfast Abbey, Devon.

With an alcohol content of 15%, Mr Kerr said the drink - known as Buckie - was "seriously bad".

He held what was described as a "useful meeting" with distributors J Chandler and Co.

An executive spokesman said: "It was made clear that there were many challenges around alcohol in Scotland and Buckfast was one of them.

The problem with anything alcoholic is if it's abused
Jim Wilson
J Chandler & Co

"The minister said his concern was about low cost, high alcohol-by-volume products, not just Buckfast.

"They agreed that the dialogue should continue."

Jim Wilson, spokesman for Chandlers, said the meeting was "fairly fruitful".

He added: "Mr Kerr explained it was his mission to reduce alcohol abuse in Scotland and that he was going to be having discussions with the whole drinks industry to solve the problem, not just one product."

The firm had previously raised concerns that Buckfast was being targeted by ministers.

'Singled out'

Mr Wilson said: "Mr Kerr gave assurances that it wasn't being singled out and that this wasn't the intention of the executive and we accept that in good faith.

"We listened to what the minister had to say and hopefully he took on board what we were saying and some good will come of it."

He added that Buckfast - which is red-wine based with a high caffeine content - had not been advertised in Scotland for more than 20 years.

The prevalence of the drink in the so-called Buckfast Triangle, an area east of Glasgow between Airdrie, Coatbridge and Cumbernauld, has already raised concerns.

A number of alcohol campaigners and people living in the affected communities said there was "no point" in blaming one particular brand of alcohol.

Every time a Labour minister singles it out, the drink is given free publicity which may bestow cult status upon it
Margaret Mitchell
Conservative justice spokeswoman

Ministers have also been accused of giving Buckfast "cult status" by Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell.

She said the "root cause" of the problem was failure of the executive to tackle under-age drinking.

"The fact of the matter is that if Buckfast was banned tomorrow, some other drink would take its place," she said.

"It is clear that if the coalition concentrated on prosecuting those who sell drink to under-age youths and ensured there were sufficient police on the beat to deter and detect under-age drinking, then the problem would be substantially reduced.

"Every time a Labour minister singles it out, the drink is given free publicity which may well bestow cult status upon it."




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Background to the meeting



SEE ALSO
Pupils give MSPs alcohol evidence
30 Oct 06 |  Glasgow and West
'Passing the buck' over Buckfast
30 Oct 06 |  Scotland

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