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Minister criticises Buckfast donation

A CHURCH of Scotland minister has hit out at the distributors of Buckfast tonic wine for making a £25,000 donation to a cancer charity in his area.

The Reverend David Burt said he felt the company was trying to make up for the damage its product inflicts. The minister of Hillhouse Parish Church in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, claimed Buckfast was a scourge on the area and the cause of a lot of anti-social behaviour.

J Chandler & Co donated a £25,000 cheque to the Macmillan Cancer Support service at Udston Hospital in Hamilton.

Mr Burt, who is also the Moderator of the Hamilton Presbytery, said he did not blame the charity for accepting the large sum in a tough economic climate. However, he questioned the company's motives in handing over the cash.

He said: "If the company is trying to absolve its conscience, then this doesn't do it. The damage the product does, particularly in this area, far outweighs any donation the company can make to charity.

"I see the damage and social problems Buckfast causes in Hillhouse.

"A lot of the product, probably a disproportionate amount, is sold here and if the distributor says it doesn't contribute to problems here then it is fooling itself."

However, Stewart Wilson, sales manager for J Chandler & Co, hit back at the Church of Scotland minister's comments.

He insisted the company wanted to support the charity and help people suffering from terminal illnesses.

He added: "When we decided to make the donation, the initial contact I had was with Macmillan Cancer Support UK and they put me in touch with the Scottish division.

"We don't advertise or promote our brand and nine times out of 10 when we give to charity we don't publicise it.

"It was Macmillan who compiled the press release on the donation and we were happy to go along with it."

Angela McCormack, fundraising manager for Macmillan, said: "The company gets its share of bad press but it should get some good press for this donation and the money it gives to other charities.

"I was keen to keep the money in Lanarkshire. A donation of that amount will make a huge difference. We award grants in Lanarkshire totalling £500,000 and as an area we don't raise as much money as we spend."

Buckfast, which is made by Benedictine monks at an abbey in Devon, has been linked to violence and anti-social behaviour. A BBC investigation found the drink had been mentioned in 5638 Strathclyde Police crime reports between 2006 and 2009.

The Scottish Labour Party has called for drinks such as Buckfast, with high alcohol and caffeine content, to be banned.

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