‘Vast majority’ of Scots support lower drink drive limit, claims Kenny MacAskill
JUSTICE Secretary Kenny MacAskill has defended plans to lower the drink-driving limit in Scotland and says they have the broad support of the public and will help to save lives.
• Consultation launched on reducing drink drive limit from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg
• Kenny MacAskill says lower level in line with rest of Europe
• Senior police officers back a reduction
Mr MacAskill claimed widespread backing for the plan on the day a consultation opened on whether to cut the legal limit from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg north of the border.
The move would bring Scotland in line with other European countries such as France, Germany and Spain, but create a difference with England.
The Scotsman revealed today that senior police officers are backing a reduction. The Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (Asps) warned that, despite years of campaigns and crackdowns, drink-driving is still seen as acceptable in some parts of Scotland.
Today Mr MacAskill said: “We think in Scotland that this consultation will show that the vast majority of people want this.
“I think we’re expecting support around the chamber. Although it’s being driven by the SNP Government, we know that other parties are with us on this.
“We’ve got these powers, we’re acting to save lives. If we had more powers, I think we’d save more lives.”
The power to set drink-driving limits was among those transferred from Westminster to Holyrood under the Scotland Act this year.
Further powers to vary penalties or allow random testing were refused, Mr MacAskill said.
In 2010, Westminster’s Transport Committee recommended against setting an interim level at 50mg, arguing instead for a police crackdown and education campaign. MPs said that taking the limit to an even lower level would be too great a step “at this stage”.
Mr MacAskill, launching the consultation outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh today, said: “The reason we’re going for 50 is that is the European norm, it’s what most countries have.
“Apart from Malta, the UK is the only other country that operates an 80 limit. We tend to think it’s the other countries that have got it right, rather than the UK and Malta.”
On calls to lower the limit further, he said: “It poses problems for the police and prosecution in terms of mouthwash, granny’s sherry trifle and chocolate liqueurs, never mind people who can have it in their metabolism or whatever else.”
He added: “The argument has been between 50 and zero. We’re happy to look at what the consultation and the evidence shows.
“The advice from police, the advice from the prosecution, is that zero has real problems and causes difficulties. A limit of 20 would have to tie in with some element of graduated penalties.”
He rejected the suggestion that creating a difference with England may confuse motorists.
“People just have to get on with it,” he said.
“When you come out of Edinburgh airport, or any airport, you’ll see signs because people have flown in from countries where they drive on the other side of the road.
“If anyone is crossing the border I would hope they wouldn’t be drink-driving. Certainly, if they’re coming a long way up the M6 or M74 I would hope they would probably be preparing for that journey.
“We don’t anticipate any difficulties, and if there are any difficulties I’ve had assurances from chief police officers that we’ll put big signs up at the border reminding them it’s 50.”
Deputy Chief Constable Tom Ewing, who leads on road policing for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, backed the plan.
He said the proposed 50mg limit would mean people could have no more than one drink before driving, but added: “The message should be: don’t drink and drive.
“We know we get public support because we get lots of people phoning us to tell us they think someone is drink-driving. That is a good indicator that we have public support.”
Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC said: “As prosecutors, we know from bitter experience the misery and suffering that driving under the influence can cause.
“It all too often results in serious injury or loss of life, with around 10 per cent of the deaths on Scottish roads involving drivers who are over the legal limit.”
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