David Maddox: Anti-Union sentiment set to cloud a life and death issue

Share this article

'TIS the season to be jolly – but not too jolly – as Holyrood's festive political party circuit gets into full swing.

In its traditional slot, along with the decorations on the Norwegian spruce, the business managers at Holyrood have slotted a debate on drink-driving into Thursday's diary, the last day of parliamentary business before Christmas.

After they have finished pontificating about the evils of the intoxicated trying to drive an automobile, most of them will no doubt dutifully jump into a taxi which will take them to one of the alcohol-fuelled gatherings that mark the start of the Christmas holidays.

But, this is, of course, a serious subject and one which will provoke some soul-searching debate among the MSPs – but not, as one might expect, on the death toll at Christmas. Most policemen will tell you that more people are killed by drink-driving in the summer when there are no annual spot checks and in fact drink-driving at Christmas is dropping.

No, the big underlying debate – as with almost any other topic in Holyrood – will be on the iniquities or benefits of being part of the United Kingdom.

The signal for this was given at First Minister's Questions last week by Alex Salmond, who turned a reasonable, but obviously placed question on lowering the alcohol limit for drink-driving into an attack on the United Kingdom.

He said that he supported the lowering of the limit, as many people do, and then without much hesitation pronounced how terrible it was that a UK government did not consult on lowering the drink-driving limit in a recent road safety survey.

Drink-driving is a reserved issue, and so the underlying message from Mr Salmond is that innocent Scottish lives will be lost this Christmas and beyond because of the actions of the UK government.

The likelihood is that the other parties, especially Labour, will allow themselves to get sucked into an argument on the Union, rather than what needs to be done to save people's lives.

Back to the top of the page