By Paul Thornton
HIGH caffeine levels in drinks like Buckfast should be banned, according to Scottish Labour.
The political party will today ask a think-tank to recommend a legal limit for stimulants in alcoholic drinks.
They have pointed to the example of countries such as Norway, Iceland and Denmark, who limit the level to 150mg of caffeine in every litre of booze.
The strong tonic wine – often linked to crime – has around 375mg per litre and would not be allowed under those rules.
Labour’s move is seen as an alternative to the SNP government’s plan for minimum alcohol pricing.
But distributors of Buckfast, J Chandler & Company, have slammed the policy as a “witch hunt”.
And the Scottish Government claims the opposition are “obsessing” over the drink – make by monks in Devon – while ignoring the wider problem Scotland has with alcohol.
Last month Strathclyde Police revealed that Buckfast was mentioned in 5,638 crime reports from 2006 to 2009.
One in 10 of those offences were violent and the bottle was used as a weapon 114 times in that period.
Labour said that there was a link between drinks with high caffeine levels and trouble.
Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “I believe the risks involved in consuming caffeinated alcohol are so great that the Scottish Government must take action.
“The research suggests you are more likely to end up in hospital or be assaulted if you drink these products.”
Labour MSP Richard Simpson – a former psychiatrist – added: “It is a fact that research has shown that mixture of a stimulant and a depressant leads to a chaotic situation, which means there is a much greater risk of engaging in violent behaviour.”
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon, said the move was a “smokescreen”.
Miss Sturgeon said: “This is a smokescreen to hide a blatant disregard for parliament, which is the proper place to debate the issues around the Alcohol Bill – not a hand-picked talking shop designed to delay and distract.
“Obsessing about Buckfast, which accounts for 0.5 per cent of alcohol sold in Scotland, ignores the elephant in the room, which is the excessive consumption of cheap alcohol that’s fuelling health and social problems and costing Scotland billions every year.”
Jim Wilson Spokesman for J Chandler & Company, who distributes Buckfast, said the firm supply several countries with the 15 per cent drink without such social problems.
Mr Wilson said: “There is no hard evidence to support what Labour is saying.
“We have sold a product for more than 80 years in several different countries and nowhere else is anybody linking it to health or crime.
“There is no doubt this is a witch hunt, and Labour is using us as an excuse for ditching the unit price on alcohol proposal because it is unpopular.”