Buckfast is one of Scotland’s most iconic and controversial drinks.

The highly caffeinated tonic wine sells in significant quantities in Scotland, and has achieved a level of recognition as a cultural signifier of the country.

However, the legacy of Buckfast has not always been positive, and it has been regularly mentioned as a factor in criminal cases.

Ferret Fact Service | Scotlands impartial fact check project

Recently, a post on Reddit shared 62,000 times and a widely-shared article on Lad Bible reported that the drink has been linked to a high proportion of crimes committed in Scotland.

Ferret Fact Service looked into this claim and found it to be False.

Evidence

Buckfast is a fortified wine which is licensed by the Buckfast Abbey in Devon, where it was originally made by Benedictine monks.

It has gained popularity in Scotland, particularly in the Glasgow region.

The claim in the Reddit post that Buckfast is less than 0.5 per cent of Scotland’s alcohol sales is cited in a number of media reports on the drink.

TIL Buckfast, a caffeinated tonic wine, accounts for less than half a percent of Scotland’s total alcohol sales but is a factor in over 40 percent of arrests. from todayilearned

In 2010, The Economist attributed the figure to Jim Wilson of J Chandler & Co, distributor for Buckfast.

He said: “You have to look at this in its entirety. We are a small part of a £7bn industry. We are less than 0.5 per cent of the total alcohol market.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also made reference to the figure in 2010 when she was health secretary, saying: “Obsessing about Buckfast, which accounts for 0.5% 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.”

More up to date figures are harder to come by, but according to the trade magazine The Grocer sales in 2017 are up 7.9 per cent and the product made £26.9m over last year.

The main statistic in the recent claims is that Buckfast is a factor in more than 40 per cent of arrests in Scotland.

This figure is credited to a 2015 Scottish Prisons Service report, but the prisoner survey from that year makes no specific reference to Buckfast. Two in five (40 per cent) reported being under the influence of alcohol when they committed their offence. For young offenders, the rate was over 60 per cent.

Media reports have mentioned the specific figure of 43 per cent of crimes linked to Buckfast. This appears to originate from a Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research report published in 2009 which surveyed 172 offenders in 2007. It dealt with alcohol and violence specifically of young male offenders, and found the overall percentage who admitted to drinking at the time of their offence was 69.8.

Among those who admitted to drinking before their offence, 43.4 per cent drank Buckfast. This equates to around 28 per cent of all those who were surveyed.

The study also showed that while the drink was popular in the West of Scotland, it barely featured in young offenders responses in other parts of the country.

It states that: “Buckfast tonic wine was most commonly the favourite drink of young offenders from Lanarkshire, and was distinctly less popular in large parts of the east of Scotland.”

The drink was mentioned in 5,638 crime reports in Strathclyde from 2006 to 2009, according to data revealed in a freedom of information request. This represents less than one per cent of all crime reports in the period.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: False

Buckfast has been mentioned in a number of criminal incidents in Scotland, but the statistics do not show it is a factor in 40 per cent of crimes. The survey where that figure originates relates to young male offenders, and less than 30 per cent of the 172 interviewed mentioned they were drinking Buckfast at the time of their offence. These figures are now ten years out of date.

This claim is false

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, working to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Email us at factcheck@theferret.scot or join our community forum.

Photo thanks to Daniel Naczk, CC BY-SA 2.0

Police Scotland were approached for comment but declined. 

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