Calls to raise upper limit of drink-driving fines

The Scottish Government was last night facing calls for tougher drink-drive fines amid concerns that hefty penalties such as the £86,000 sentence handed to Ant McPartlin cannot be imposed in Scotland.

Scotland has stricter laws on drink-driving than the rest of the UK, but the penalties can be tougher south of the Border. Photograph: HEMedia
Scotland has stricter laws on drink-driving than the rest of the UK, but the penalties can be tougher south of the Border. Photograph: HEMedia

Scottish Labour called for an overhaul of the system, arguing that courts should be able to impose larger fines on wealthier motorists.

McPartlin, who earned £130,000 per week as a television presenter, was given a £86,000 fine alongside a 20-month driving ban after he admitted driving while more than twice the legal limit in London in March.

But Labour said he would have been fined a maximum of £5,000 if the offence had occurred in Scotland, due to limits resulting from the “standard scale” for financial penalties.

Setting maximum penalties for drink-driving comes under the scope of the Westminster Parliament, but ministers north of the border have the power to alter the standard scale.

Yesterday the Scottish Government insisted there was “no evidence” for a need for tougher drink-driving fines being brought in, despite the most recent figures showing a 3 per cent rise in convictions.

Cases where driving under the influence was the main conviction increased from 3,537 in 2015/16 to 3,646 the following year, according to Scottish Government figures.

The rise bucked the trend of the last decade, which has seen drink-driving cases fall overall from the 7,820 recorded in 2007/08.

Labour MSP Daniel Johnson welcomed the long-term fall in cases but said the recent rise suggested more action was needed to tackle the problem.

Johnson said: “The long-term drop in convictions for drink-driving is welcome and a marker of the enormous change in attitudes over the last decade.

“However, we should not be complacent about this progress, and this year’s increase shows there is still work to do to prevent drink- driving.

“A simple, but effective way to do that would be to allow courts to be able to hand out larger fines, especially for those with large incomes, as currently happens in England.”

Johnson added: “The stark reality is that for a case like TV presenter Ant McPartlin’s, Scottish courts would only have been able to hand down a fine worth just six per cent of his eventual fine.

“While a fine of £5,000 would in most cases be an appropriate maximum, for those on higher incomes this may not act as any kind of deterrent.

“It therefore seems appropriate to review and adjust the standard scale of fines to fix this anomaly as part of a renewed effort to end drink-driving for good.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We took action in 2014 to lower the drink-drive limit so it is now lower than in England and Wales.

“However, specifically setting maximum penalties for drink-driving remains a matter reserved to the UK government.

“We keep the levels used on the standard scale under review, but at present there is no evidence indicating they need to be revised in Scotland.”