Bid to allow random breath-tests in Scotland

Police already have power to breath-test drivers suspected of an offence. Picture: Hemedia

Police already have power to breath-test drivers suspected of an offence. Picture: Hemedia

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PRESSURE is mounting on Westminster to allow random breath-testing to maximise the impact of Scotland’s new lower drink-drive limit, which comes into force next week.

Scottish ministers and motoring groups renewed their calls for the power to be devolved, days after MSPs agreed unanimously to cut the limit.

From Friday, 5 December, the limit north of the Border will be cut from 80mg to 50mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, bringing Scotland into line with other European countries, many of which also have random testing.

Police can breathalyse drivers suspected of drinking, of committing an offence or who have been involved in a crash.

But a UK government review, which recommended the lower limit in 2010, said it would be undermined without the deterrent of random testing.

Sir Peter North’s report recommended: “It is very desirable an unambiguous message can be given to the public about the risks of being breath-tested and the law should be broadened to achieve this.”

The Scottish Government said it had repeatedly demanded the power, included in its submission to the Smith Commission on further devolution, in a bid to reduce the 20 people killed and 560 injured a year by drink drivers.

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A spokeswoman said: “We believe the Scottish Parliament should have the power to consider allowing the police to breath-test drivers any time and anywhere. We called for this to be devolved and this was rejected by the UK government.

“We have now asked for the Scottish Parliament to have full responsibility for road traffic offences in our submission to the Smith Commission, to allow us to better tackle drink driving, make our roads safer and save lives.”

Former First Minister Alex Salmond told MSPs last month: “The public mood is ripe and ready for a further initiative to bear down on an ­aspect of conduct in society that is still disastrous in its impact on victims, communities and, indeed, perpetrators and their families.”

Police Scotland Chief Superintendent Iain Murray, head of roads policing, said: “Random testing has proved a meaningful deterrent where it has been introduced. It has also met with significant public approval.”

And Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation said: “The cut in the limit reflects Scotland’s serious concern about the dangers of drink driving, so it would be reasonable to give police all available powers to sensibly enforce it.”

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of road safety charity Brake, said: “If the Scottish Government is given powers to catch more drunk drivers via random breath testing, then that can only be a good thing.”

However, some motoring experts disagree. AA president Edmund King said: “The police already have the power to stop and breathalyse anyone they suspect of drink driving.

“Targeting drink drivers, in the way that police target ­other criminals, is much more effective in terms of police resources and conviction rates than a random ­approach.” The UK government said it had no plans for random testing “at this time”.

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