THE launch of controversial tonic wine Buckfast in cans could reduce Scotland's chronic levels of bottle attacks and injuries, a ­leading medical expert has claimed.

With research showing a higher proportion of violent offenders use bottles than knives, Dr Peter Rice, chairman of the Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, said on balance the new £2.90 25cl cans were a positive.

J Chandler, the firm that distributes the highly caffeinated drink, which is also 15% alcohol, has been under pressure for several years to produce the drink in plastic bottles.

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With further research showing the environmental damage caused by broken bottles, much of it from Buckfast, the move could have further beneficial spin-offs for the environment.

J Chandler said there would be an initial run of 16,000 to coincide with the summer season and if successful the new product would sit alongside the traditional 75cl glass bottle, which sells for over £7.

Dr Rice, a consultant psychiatrist in Tayside and expert in alcohol-related brain injuries, said: "There are upsides and downsides.

"The police view is there'd be a lot less hassle if some products weren't in glass bottles and there's been research pointing to the environmental impact of glass.

"Buckfast have resisted moves towards plastic bottles so I think on balance this is a move in the right direction."

A spokesman for J ­Chandler said: "The public health minister for Scotland called on businesses to promote responsible consumption of alcohol and make smaller measures available in January. That's when we decided we should look at bringing Buckfast out in a smaller unit."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Clearly, it is important people have the ability to choose a smaller measure if they wish. However the research proves affordability is key in the misuse of alcohol and that the most effective way to tackle this is by setting a minimum unit price."