Lawyers warn Scottish Government over cutting drink drive limit

Lawyers don't believe a reduction will tackle the worst offenders. Picture: John Giles/PA
Lawyers don't believe a reduction will tackle the worst offenders. Picture: John Giles/PA
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LAWYERS have warned Scottish Government plans to cut the drink-drive limit from 80mg of alcohol to 50mg will not tackle the worst cases.

• Scots lawyers have warned that cutting drink-driving limit will not tackle the worst cases

• Legal professionals believe most people caught are substantially over the limit, and will not be adequately dealt with by new law

The Law Society of Scotland believes ministers are right to target drink driving, but are going about it the wrong way.

They say most people who are caught are substantially over the limit and aware they are breaking the law. Those people will not be tackled by the proposed changes, it argues.

The warning echoes concerns already raised by Conservative MSPs.

The society was responding to the Scottish Government’s consultation document, Reducing the Drink Driving Limit in Scotland, which proposes to use new powers given to the Scottish Parliament under the Scotland Act 2012 to reduce the drink driving limit per 100ml of blood.

The Scottish Government estimates that just over one in every nine deaths on Scotland’s roads, each year, involve drivers who are over the legal limit. An average of 30 deaths a year are caused by people consuming alcohol before getting behind the wheel.

Bill McVicar, convener of the Society’s criminal law committee, said: “The Scottish Government is right to look carefully at Holyrood’s new powers and consider what action it can now take to tackle those who recklessly drive after consuming alcohol, risking fatal injury to themselves and others.

“While we are entirely supportive of the policy intent behind the proposals, and share the government’s and the general public’s disapproval and concern for those individuals who choose to drive after consuming alcohol, the majority of convictions relating to drink driving involve people who are not only substantially over the current limit, but people who arguably know they are over that limit.

“It should therefore be 
questioned whether any reduction in the existing drink driving limit will tackle the worst offenders.”

The society is keen to see more research on drink driving being used to underpin changes in the law.

“Transport Scotland currently publishes statistics on the numbers of cases where a driver has been found to be over the limit,” Mr McVicar said.

“However, there is currently no information on the degree to which those with a positive reading have broken the limit.

“Such data would be helpful in really understanding the whole picture.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Lowering the drink drive limit is aimed at sending out a clear message that if you’ve had a drink, you should not get behind the wheel.

“We estimate that lowering the limit from 80mg to 50mg would lead to a reduction in the drink drive death toll of between 10 and 50 per cent.”