Crackdown on Buckfast rejected by ministers

The proposed restriction on caffeinated drinks is designed to address a link between Buckfast and offending identified by the Scottish Prison Service. Picture: TSPL
The proposed restriction on caffeinated drinks is designed to address a link between Buckfast and offending identified by the Scottish Prison Service. Picture: TSPL
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THE Scottish Government has urged MSPs to reject a Labour proposal to tighten the laws on the sale and promotion of alcohol which would include tougher regulation of Buckfast.

Ministers have called on Holyrood’s health committee to recommend that Labour MSP and former GP Dr Richard Simpson’s Alcohol Bill should make no further progress in parliament.

They argue that many of the provisions of the bill - which include a minimum price on multipacks, regulation of alcoholic drinks containing caffeine, restrictions on alcohol advertising and drinking banning orders - are either unworkable, fall foul of UK and EU legislation or are better dealt with under existing legislation.

The proposed restriction on caffeinated drinks is designed to address a link between Buckfast and offending identified by the Scottish Prison Service.

Ministers say such a proposal, which appears focused “on only one product”, could fall foul of EU regulations protecting the free movement of goods.

The Scottish Government is currently fighting an EU challenge against its own minimum unit pricing legislation after a European Court judge argued it could breach the same regulations.

Public health minister Maureen Watt and Dr Simpson will appear before Holyrood’s health committee to present their arguments. In an advance submission, the Scottish Government said: “Although the Scottish Government welcomes the intent to address the issue of alcohol misuse, on balance we consider that some provisions are unnecessary at this time and significant detailed work is required to explore whether others could be made workable and proportionate.

“We believe that the issues it raises would be better addressed via the review of the Alcohol Framework.

“On this basis the Scottish Government does not support the Alcohol (Scotland) Bill progressing to stage 2.”

Dr Simpson said some of the evidence that the committee has received so far has been “misleading or indeed incorrect”.