Alex Neil urges Antiques Roadshow to avoid home of Buckfast

The former Scottish health secretary has urged BBC bosses to ditch plans to film the Antiques Roadshow at Buckfast Abbey over fears it may promote the controversial drink.

Presenter Fiona Bruce will be heading to the historic site near Buckfastleigh, Devon, on September 13 to film the BBC show for an edition celebrating the abbey’s thousand-year anniversary.

But Alex Neil has criticised the public broadcaster for “even inadvertently” advertising the tonic wine by hosting the show there.

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The SNP MSP says the tonic wine has had a damaging impact on his constituency and is now urging the BBC to change location.

Buckfast has been criticised in the past. Picture: TSPL
Buckfast has been criticised in the past. Picture: TSPL

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He said: “My concern is that this programme could be used, even inadvertently, to advertise Buckfast.

“Viewers might get the impression that the BBC is endorsing Buckfast as a product.

“Clearly this would not be good given the concerns about the effect of Buckfast on the people who drink it

Buckfast has been criticised in the past. Picture: TSPL

“The important thing is that they make it clear they are not promoting or endorsing Buckfast.

“I think a change of venue would be the best way to achieve this. I am going to write to them about it.”

Mr Neil, who last year called for Buckfast to cut their 37mg per 100ml caffeine content added: “Excessive caffeine levels in drinks like this can cause people to misbehave.”

In a letter to the Director General of the BBC, Lord Hall, Mr Neil said: “For many years there has been great concern in Scotland about the sale of Buckfast and its adverse impact on the behaviour of those who drink it, owing to its excessive caffeine content, etc.

“A lot of anti-social behaviour is caused by the use of this drink

“By using this Abbey as a location of this (excellent) programme it could send out the wrong message, especially to young people, that the BBC was giving respectability and credibility to this drink.

“I would strongly urge you not to use this location; or if you insist on doing so ensure that the BBC makes it clear that it does not in any way endorse the production and sale of this product.”

A spokeswoman for the Antiques Roadshow said that the abbey was chosen for the show because of its historical importance.

She said: “Buckfast Abbey is a site of historical significance, celebrating one thousand years of worship in 2018, and is set in a beautiful landscape in an area of the country that the Roadshow has not visited in some time.

“It also has facilities to cater for the large number of visitors the Roadshow expects to draw to its free, public events.”

BBC sources insisted there will be no on-air promotion of the product.

Stewart Wilson, a spokesman for J Chandler and Co - the manufacturers of Buckfast, was surprised by the remarks of the former health secretary.

He said: “We are somewhat surprised my Mr Neil’s comments.

“We wrote to Mr Neil when he was the health secretary.

“We received a reply back clearly indicating that the Scottish Government has no evidence to suggest that our brand causes any issues.”

A spokeswoman for Buckfast Abbey said that 2018 is a significant year for the abbey.

She said: “This year is an important year for Buckfast Abbey, marking 1000 years since the monastery’s founding in 1018.

“With this important landmark year and the wealth of history at Buckfast Abbey, we are very much looking forward to welcoming the Antiques Roadshow.

“We feel this is a wonderful opportunity for the viewers of Antiques Roadshow to learn more about the life and history of Buckfast Abbey, as well as welcoming the wider community for what will be an exciting event for all.”

Buckfast is a drink with a chequered past owing largely to both its high alcohol and caffeine content.

Since 2014, the drink has been linked to more than 6,500 reports of antisocial behaviour and violence in Scotland.

And in 2015, the Scottish Prison Service reported that more than 43 per cent of inmates had consumed Buckfast before their last offence, despite accounting for less than one per cent of Scotland’s total alcohol sales.