The Scottish Parliament has endorsed plans to reduce the drink driving limit, with a motion being passed with 100 votes to 12 that backs a consultation on cutting the limit. The SNP government is working to cut the blood alcohol restriction from 80mg per 100ml of blood to just 50mg, which would be in line with many other European countries. These plans were debated after the Scotland Act devolved powers to change the limit from Westminster to Holyrood. The consultation will end later this month, and new laws will need to be passed before the limit can be reduced.
According to figures, one in ten deaths on Scottish roads involve motorists who are under the influence of alcohol and over the current limit. It’s said that drivers are five times more likely to be in an accident involving someone over the 80mg limit than the 50mg limit. The British government isn’t planning to reduce the drink driving limit for the rest of the nation, but Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary for Scotland says that more action is needed to battle drink driving.
MacAskill says the 80mg limit has been enforced since the mid-60s, and Malta is the only other country in Europe that still has the same limit. The government needs to ask itself if the current blood alcohol limit is providing a clear message that drink driving is unacceptable. It’s the right time to make a change that will bring the country in line with the majority of Europe. Their neighbouring nations haven’t lowered the blood alcohol limit on a whim. They have made the move to address issues with drink driving on their roads.
However, concerns have been expressed as to if the new limitations will really work. Labour says the move may undermine cuts in the justice system, while the Tories say officials could end up targeting the wrong offenders.
Lews Macdonald, the justice spokesman for Labour, says that there’s a strong case for early legislation to reduce the blood alcohol limit. He also noted that cuts, like those to civilian police workers, risk officers being taken off frontline duties, which will affect their ability to enforce new laws. The changes can’t be made until the justice system is ready to deliver the changes. Proposed court closures, falling fiscal service numbers and Scottish Court Service budget cuts all have implications on changes that will increase case numbers.
Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said there may be a case for reducing the drink driving limit to cope with the problem, but making a change could mean that police change their focus. He believes the right pace for officers to be enforcing the law is on Friday and Saturday evenings. This is when most people have been drinking large amounts of alcohol and get behind the wheel of a car. The most productive place for the law to be enforced could grow due to a lower limit – like catching a mother over the limit on a Sunday morning at the supermarket after having some wine at home the night before.
However, Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes attacked these concerns, saying that the party is content to offer their support for the law change. They look forward to the results of the consultation and the lower limit being introduced in parliament.