1. ITV Report

Scottish Parliament backs plans to lower drink-drive limit

MSPs have backed a move to cut the drink drive limit Photo: John Giles/PA Wire

Plans to cut the drink-driving limit in Scotland have been endorsed by the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish government held a debate yesterday on lowering the drink drive limit in Scotland from 80 milligrams to 50 milligrams.

Lowering the drink-drive limit in Scotland to the equivalent of a pint of beer will save up to 17 lives a year, the Telegraph reports.

The change, which comes after the UK Government transferred control over the limit to Holyrood, means drivers will be over the limit if they consume one strong pint of beer or large glass of wine.

The current limit is roughly equivalent to one – and – a – half pints of beer.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill yesterday published a public consultation on the proposal, which has the support of opposition parties and the police.

According to the document, there is an average of 960 casualties on Scotland’s roads every year in accidents involving drink-driving including 30 deaths.

The current drink drive limit in Scotland is 80 milligrams Credit: John Giles/PA Wire

Mr MacAskill said lowering the drink-drive limit to 50mg will save between three and 17 annually.

MSPs voted 100 to 12 in favour of a Scottish Government motion welcoming the consultation paper.

The MSPs noted the Government's 'continued efforts to secure a more extensive set of powers over drink driving from the UK Government'.

The reduction would bring the country in line with the majority of other European states such as Germany, France and Italy.

Drink driving remains one of the biggest killers on our roads - despite a decline in drink-driving casualties - a road safety charity has warned.

In the UK, drink-drive casualties (deaths, serious injuries and minor injuries) decreased significantly during the 1980s, but rose by nearly a third between 1993 and 2002 (from 14,980 to 20,140).

Some MSPs also want to introduce random roadside breath testing Credit: John Giles/PA Wire

Since then they have been falling, but remain one of the biggest killers on our roads - road safety charity Brake has warned.

Many more drink-drive crashes are caused by drivers who only have small amounts of alcohol in their blood.

A further estimated 80 road deaths per year are caused by drivers who are under the drink-drive limit, but who have a significant amount of alcohol in their blood.

Mr MacAskill has also asked the UK transport secretary for the transfer of powers in areas such as random testing and tougher measures for young drivers.

This government welcomes having the power to set the drink-drive limit but the Scotland Act was a missed opportunity.

The very limited transfer of powers did not go far enough.

We wanted a package to be devolved that would allow us to consider whether the police should be able to carry out breath testing drivers anytime, anywhere, and powers to consider changing the penalties for drink-driving.

We also called for the chance to consider differential drink-driving limits. For example, for young and novice drivers.

None of these were devolved by the UK government and I have written to the Secretary of State for Transport calling for the UK government to reconsider.

– Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskil

Labour's Lewis MacDonald has also welcomed the proposal to reduce the limit but said it could potentially have resource implications at a time of cuts to police backroom staff.

I am not, in principle, opposed to the further devolution of more powers in this area but I am concerned to see the legislation come forward using the powers that are devolved already in order for that to provide the basis to go forwards.

Mr MacDonald praised the former Labour government at Westminster for commissioning Sir Peter North's independent review of the law on drink and drug driving.

Random testing, for example, was one of the North recommendations that he was able to elucidate strong evidence for.

I think some of the other issues raised are less evidence-based but I don't think the priority at this stage is the debate around those powers.

The priority is to ensure that the powers that we have are implemented effectively.