Wide support for study's finding on tougher drink-driving levels

A REDUCTION in drink-drive levels has moved a step closer after being backed by an influential review.

The Scottish Government has welcomed Sir Peter North's recommendation that the legal limit be cut from 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, to 50mg.

That would see the average man limited to a pint of beer or a large wine, or a woman to half a pint of beer or a small wine.

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Devolving drink-drive powers to Holyrood is a recommendation of the Calman Commission and has cross-party support.

The Scottish Government has set 50mg as its preferred level, as have the Liberal Democrats, while Labour supports a reduction, and the Conservatives have yet to say what their ideal level would be. It is expected to be discussed in today's visit by Scottish Secretary Michael Moore to Holyrood.

Although a draft Scotland Bill will be brought by the new coalition government in Westminster by the autumn, there is no guarantee powers will be transferred until 2015, which means it could be five years until the Scottish Parliament has the chance to vote on drink-driving.

The Sir Peter North review said: "There is very considerable public support for a reduction in the current drink-drive limit. A reduction would be consistent with the approach adopted by a large majority of countries in the EU."

University College London estimated a 50mg limit would save the economy 120 million a year by reducing medical costs and lost working time.

Research has also shown that 65 lives would be saved, and 230 people would avoid serious injury, each year in the UK, by setting a 50mg limit.

Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill added: "For years we've been calling on the Westminster government to get a move on and reduce the drink-drive limit, or to transfer the powers to Scotland so that we could take the action needed ourselves."

Richard Baker, Scottish Labour's justice spokesman, said: "There's an extremely good case for reducing the drink drive limit in Scotland. We support these powers now coming to the Scottish Parliament."

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Robert Brown, Scottish Liberal Democrats justice spokesman, said: "We support the recommendation to cut the limit to 50mg. Most people in Scotland realise that alcohol and drivers are a deadly combination."

John Lamont, Scottish Conservative's justice spokesman said: "The real key is educating all drivers that, if their driving is impaired, they must not get behind the wheel regardless of what the legal limit is."

Chief Constable Kevin Smith, Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland's lead for road policing, said: "Acpos has a clear position of 'don't drink and drive', and I welcome the (proposed] reduction."


• The Scottish Government should ensure that procurators-fiscal routinely test for the presence of alcohol in road fatalities.

• The current prescribed blood alcohol limit of 80mcg of alcohol in 100ml of blood should be reduced to 50mcg and the equivalent in breath and urine.

• The government should, after five years, review the impact of the new prescribed limit of 50mg on young and novice drivers with view to reducing further to 20mcg.

• Police officers should be trained to carry out drugs tests where impaired driving is suspected notwithstanding a negative breathalyser test.