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Talking drink

Brian Taylor | 14:38 UK time, Monday, 18 January 2010

Check out those differing political reactions to the BBC Scotland investigation into Buckfast and its potential after-effects.

Check out why they differ.

Firstly, the basics. Our investigation discloses that Buckfast was mentioned in 5,638 crime reports in Strathclyde over the three years from 2006 to 2009.

Labour's comment? That this proves Scotland's problem with booze wouldn't be solved by minimum pricing - because such a strategy wouldn't touch Buckfast.

The SNP comment? Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill - who once described Buckfast as "a designer drink" - argued that outlawing the tonic wine with its high caffeine content would barely dent Scotland's much wider alcohol problem.

They are, of course, both right. And each comment touches upon the weakness of the other side.

Labour is finding it challenging to sustain its opposition to minimum pricing in the face of voluble support for the policy from the medical profession.

Weak point

Witness the tentative support from the Westminster Health Secretary Andy Burnham, later quashed.

The SNP knows Buckfast is a weak point in its minimum pricing initiative.

Buckie, as its west of Scotland fans call it, is "relatively expensive" already, as Mr MacAskill concedes.

It wouldn't be hit by the new policy. But, say ministers, many other problem drinks would be so affected.

There are other aspects to this controversy.

For example, the whisky industry remains gravely worried that minimum pricing here might set a precedent for punitive measures against Scotch in other countries.

A fascinating debate, then. Wonder what the monks of Buckfast Abbey think?


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