SNP’s Joan McAlpine given driving ban for speeding

AN MSP who championed 20mph zones to improve road safety has been banned from driving for speeding.

Joan McAlpine was caught travelling at 40mph in a 30mph zone in Milngavie, Glasgow, in September. The 51-year-old was fined £350 and disqualified from driving for two months.

She had already accrued nine penalty points on her licence, including another speeding penalty, and 12 would have meant a six-month ban at least.

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Her lawyer successfully argued for a shorter punishment, saying McAlpine needed her car to travel to work from her home in Glasgow.

Elaine Rae did not tell Dumbarton JP court that her work was as MSP for South of Scotland and one of First Minister Alex Salmond’s closest aides.

Ms Rae said her client had thought she was in a 40mph zone – despite signs, a speed camera and road markings –when she was caught.

JP Owen Sayers agreed to spare her more penalty points.

He told McAlpine: “If someone has nine points, they need to be very careful. These cameras are well signposted on the roads.”

Outside the court, McAlpine was contrite. “If you break the speed limit, you have to accept the consequences,” she said.

A SNP spokesman pointed out that she had owned up to the offence, while taking a swipe at the former MP for Eastleigh, Chris Huhne, who pled guilty this week to lying over a speeding fine.

“Joan McAlpine accepted full responsibility – quite a contrast with Chris Huhne,” he said.

“For the two-month period, Joan will take the bus and train more, and in any event is often accompanied to constituency visits by a member of staff who drives.”

The former journalist campaigned for a 20mph speed limit, to be cut from 30mph, on the A7 through Langholm, last year. She wrote to transport minister Keith Brown asking if a 20mph limit could be piloted in Langholm – a first for Scottish trunk roads which have minimum limits of 30mph.

McAlpine has also asked a string of parliamentary questions about road safety. One asked if a review of speed limits had considered “the survival chances of a child who is hit by a vehicle travelling at 30mph compared to one travelling at 20mph”.

McAlpine was elected as a list MSP during the 2011 election. Since then, she has been a media adviser for the SNP and Alex Salmond’s speech writer.

She is currently a member of the Scottish parliamentary committee on education and culture, and the parliamentary liaison officer to the First Minister.

Prior to leaving full-time journalism, McAlpine served as editor of The Sunday Times Scotland and latterly deputy editor of The Herald. During her time at Holyrood, she has found herself drawn into controversy. In January last year, she was accused of “political racism” when she said politicians who criticised SNP policies were “anti-Scottish”.

McAlpine came in for more criticism from opposition MSPs in March when she said the UK was like an English “domineering man” threatening a “talented, well-educated (Scottish) girl with good prospects”.

In May, she was forced to apologise to the Scottish Parliament when it was revealed that she had failed to appear to ask a question she had tabled because she was having lunch with the First Minister in Holyrood’s exclusive members’ restaurant.