Written 3rd December 2014 by Olliers Solicitors

On Friday of this week the 6th December 2014, Scotland’s new drink drive limit will come into effect. The new limit of 50mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood will be lower than in the rest of the UK.

Current UK Levels

Currently, in order for someone to be convicted of drink driving, it must be proven that the proportion of alcohol in your body exceeds the following limits: 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath, 80 mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood or 107 mg of alcohol in 100ml of urine.

The current UK limit of 80mg per 100ml of blood is Europe’s highest with only Malta sharing the same limit. Northern Ireland is also considering implementing the same reduction as Scotland. The Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia have introduced a zero tolerance policy. Germany also has a 50mg limit however for new drivers, the limit is 0.


Scotland is able to amend the current legislation as result of its devolved powers and does not require the permission of Westminster to do so. In October the then Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, indicated the Scottish government did seek a joint approach with Westminster however the UK government decided to retain the current limit. UK Road Safety Minister Robert Goodwill further confirmed there were no plans to alter the drink drive limit in England. The Scottish government’s campaign to publicise the new limit includes adverts, social media, events at supermarkets and working with petrol stations around the border.

How Much is 50mg?

A 50mg limit would mean the average man would be limited to just under a pint of beer or a large glass of wine and women to half a pint of beer or a small glass of wine. Notwithstanding that it is extremely difficult to say categorically how much an individual could drink and continue to drive legally as the rates of absorption of alcohol differ widely due to gender, age, weight, height and other variables.

For those living close to the border, the difference in policy has raised a few concerns. James Monaghan, the licensee of the Gretna Chase Hotel, who would like the lower limit in England as well said:

“The legislation is fine when you are in the centre of Scotland.

“When you are on the border here, it is a bit confusing for people. I think it is something that the two governments should have got together and kept both limits the same.

“I think it is not right, that you can have more drink on one side of the border and less on the other side.”

Director of Road Safety Scotland Michael McDonald, along with the group Scotland’s Campaign Against Irresponsible Drivers, welcomes the new limit. Mr McDonald says:

“The drink-drive limit at its current level is costing us the lives of an average of 20 people a year in Scotland, and therefore we need to do something about it.

“We are doing a bit of work in and around the border to make sure people who come across know things are different.

“We know that this move has very many supporters south of the border as well. People who live in the borders are often very conscious of the differences.”

There would appear to be many supporters of the new legislation on both sides of the border however many are frustrated that there remains a different limit in England for the foreseeable future.

Specialist Advice

Should you need advice on driving with excess alcohol please contact Ruth Peters or Neil Sargeant on 0808 168 0017 for specialist advice.

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