Over The Limit

If you are planning to visit Scotland then you need to be aware that the legal alcohol limit for drivers is lower in Scotland than in the rest of the United Kingdom. Ignorance of this could cost you more than just your licence.

For nearly 50 years the blood alcohol limit for driving – 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood – was the same throughout the United Kingdom. With the advent of reliable electronic alcohol analysers, this limit was later also expressed as 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. However, that changed on 5th December, 2014, when new limits came into force in Scotland.

Drivers in Scotland are now permitted to have:

a maximum blood alcohol limit of 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood; or

a maximum breath alcohol limit of 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.

It’s a small change that can have significant consequences.

In Scotland, driving after having consumed just a single glass of wine (or a pint of beer or a single measure of spirits) could land you in serious trouble.  And that’s because while the drink-drive limits are lower than in other parts of the UK, the penalties are not.

The upshot is that you could be disqualified from driving throughout the UK for at least 12 months if you are convicted of drink-driving in Scotland even if you would have been within the legal alcohol limit for driving in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It could ultimately cost you your job, your home and maybe even your relationship.

Best, then, to look at it this way: there is no safe margin – of the ‘I’ve only had a pint so I’ll be fine’ sort – for drinking and driving in Scotland, so it’s best not to drink any alcohol if you’re driving. And let’s be blunt, that should be your approach no matter where you live.

You might say that having different drink drive limits in different parts of the United Kingdom is idiotic, and I wouldn’t disagree with you.* But it’s the law and we’re stuck with it. So please be aware of the differences in drink-drive limits instead of discovering them the hard way.

* It’s possible for someone to drive from England into Scotland, be within the permitted alcohol limits on the English side of the border but be at risk of prosecution (and consequent disqualification from driving) the instant they cross the border into Scotland.

Home page image: public domain.