CATHY Jamieson, the justice minister, was last night unrepentant over her campaign to limit sales of Buckfast, despite facing possible legal action from the tonic wine’s distributors.
Sources close to Ms Jamieson indicated that the minister was sceptical about claims made by J Chandler & Company, the Kent-based firm that sells the drink across the UK.
A spokesman for the company was yesterday reported to have said that it had instructed lawyers to seek compensation for loss of revenue from Ms Jamieson.
The MSP has urged shopkeepers in her Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley constituency to limit sales of the drink, which she claims is linked to anti-social behaviour among young people.
Chandler & Company was reported to believe that a letter Ms Jamieson sent to the Co-operative retail sales group may have "defamed" the wine and could breach UK and European competition laws on the free movement of goods.
According to one report, Jim Wilson, a spokesman for Chandler & Company, said Ms Jamieson’s influence on the sales of the product was "quite clear". He said she was "calling for a ban in her whole constituency, so we’re talking about a loss of revenue".
In an apparent threat to Ms Jamieson, Mr Wilson added: "Until she adjusts her attitude and puts out a public apology, there is no point speaking to somebody who is so far off the mark. She is obviously hellbent on causing our company maximum embarrassment.
"She needs to get away from the business of having a go at Buckfast and get into her community and get involved with youngsters."
Ms Jamieson, who, as justice minister, has the lead role in the Executive’s drive against anti-social behaviour and youth crime, has called on other shops and off-licences in her constituency to "act responsibly" over the sales of the drink, which is brewed in France but imported to Britain, where ingredients are added by Benedictine monks in Devon.
She has said publicly that off-licences which sell the drink can become the focus for anti-social behaviour and under-age drinking. Ms Jamieson spoke out after receiving complaints from her Ayrshire voters about the threatening behaviour of drunken youths in some areas of her constituency.
A spokesman for the Executive refused to comment on the possible legal threat yesterday, saying that Ms Jamieson had been acting in her capacity as a constituency MSP.
However, a source close to the minister said that she did not regret raising this issue as a constituency MSP and taking action to try to solve the problem.
"Cathy’s view is that she is a constituency MSP first and that she had to take up issues raised with her as a local representative," said the source.
"She is quite clear that that was the right thing to do, but she believes it is not for her to tell other communities what to do.
"If they want to restrict the sales of Buckfast, that is a matter for them.
"We will just have to see if this ever comes to court, and if the company follows up the threats to take this to the courts."
The source said that Ms Jamieson was sceptical over whether the company would actually carry out its threat to take legal action, given that the drink was widely available throughout Scotland, including parts of Ayrshire which the minister represents as an MSP.
Meanwhile, a Sunday newspaper reported yesterday that sales of Buckfast has soared in the Caribbean and the West Indies.
It is said to taste like local rum, but is cheaper.
In the UK it costs about 5 for a 750ml bottle. World-wide sales of Buckfast, including those in the UK, are worth 28 million.