Kenny MacAskill backs 20mg drink drive limit

The former Scottish justice secretary, who introduced Scotland’s new lower drink drive legislation a year ago, has said there is a “good argument” for the limit to be reduced further.

Kenny MacAskill was instrumental in bringing in the new limit of 50mg in 100ml of blood. Picture: Johnston Press

Kenny MacAskill was instrumental in bringing in the new limit of 50mg in 100ml of blood – the lowest in the UK.

Yesterday he said the reduction, which came into force on 5 December last year, had saved lives but an even lower level of 20mg would be “ideal”. This amounts to a zero drinking limit.

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He said: “There is a good argument the limit should go lower still. Drink driving is down. The number convicted of drink-driving is down and so too is the number losing their lives.”

Mr MacAskill has called for lower limits for HGV and public service vehicle drivers.

He has also said that the punishments for drink driving should be changed in line with the reductions in the limit.

But while the Scottish Government has the power to alter the limit leading to conviction, the power to alter sentences, including bans and fines, is not devolved. Mr MacAskill added: “Any change requires a mitigation of the current penalty regime for the reduced limit. If the limit comes down to 20mg, I don’t think you should continue to suffer a one-year ban. There would be public concern that someone could be banned for a reading of 21mg.

“Maybe it could be something like ‘three strikes and you’re out’.

“So, while being able to reduce the limit is welcomed, the Scottish Parliament should be able to look at the penalties. Devolution of those powers is required.”

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association also wants punishments looked at – but for the current limit of 50mg.

Chief executive Paul Waterston said last December’s change had a “catastrophic effect on business” in bars and hotels. He said: “We surveyed our members and 68 per cent said it had resulted in a decline in beer sales. People are not drinking at all because the penalties are so draconian. Some countries don’t ban you at 80mg yet in Scotland you get a ban, a fine, a 20-year criminal record and you could lose your job for 50mg. We are not complaining about the limit. It is the penalties that are unfair.”

Unofficial figures point to a 12.5 per cent drop in drink-driving in Scotland in the nine months to August.