The Scottish government has confirmed its intention to tighten drink-driving laws if the country becomes independent from the rest of the UK.
The current limit for UK drivers is 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, equivalent to two pints of beer. The Scottish government is already in the process of pushing through legislation that could impose a 50mg/100ml limit as soon as August, bringing the country into line with many other European countries such as France and Spain.
However, in addition to this expected move the government has now indicated that independence would see it impose even tighter restrictions for new or professional drivers.
According to a government statement, “Independence will allow all decisions on drink driving policy to be taken in Scotland. This could include setting a lower blood/alcohol limit for young or newly qualified drivers or for those driving in a professional capacity – for example, taxi and HGV drivers.”
The official referendum website confirms: “The Scottish government will bring forward legislation to lower the drink driving limit once technical changes to drink drive testing devices have been made.”
This could mirror a move by the Irish government three years ago, which introduced a limit of 20mg per 100ml for learner drivers and taxi drivers, meaning just one small glass of wine would see them break the law.
The plans have received a mixed reaction, with many road safety organisations calling for a total ban on alcohol when driving.
However, the RAC’s Simon Williams told Scotland Now: “We question whether a more stringent limit for professional drivers is needed because the law should either deem it safe to drive with up to 50mg of alcohol in the blood or not, regardless of whether you are a professional or private driver, or experienced or inexperienced.”
The tighter laws are also likely to pose problems for Scotland’s pub and restaurant sector by deterring people from eating out. A consultation carried out by the Scottish government in 2012 found that while 72% of those surveyed supported a tighter drink driving limit, one of the main concerns raised was the negative impact on Scotland’s hospitality and tourism industries.
Several representatives from the drinks industry have already voiced their concern about other implications of Scottish independence, with William Grant & Sons donating £100,000 to the “Better Together” campaign this week.
Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to 2020 annual report for 2013 noted: “Over the last five years for which data is available, the average number of Scottish fatalities due to drink-drive accidents is around 30.” Overall Scotland’s road fatalities are already in sharp decline, with the total 174 fatalities recorded in 2012 marking a 40% decrease on the 2004-2008 average.