Campaigners and a number of other groups have said that the penalties, which include an automatic 12 month driving ban and a potential fine of up to £5,000, are too harsh for those drivers that would have fallen below the old drink driving limit, but are over the limit according to the new guidelines. A number of damning reports have been published, including those that point to pubs and bars going out of business as consumers are too concerned about being over the limit to go out.
The chief economist for the Bank of Scotland, Donald MacRae, has even blamed the new limits for a slump in the Scottish economy, because it has effectively stunted the growth of the Scottish pub industry. However, a spokesperson has said that if the new rules prevent a single drink-driving related death, then it will be considered a success, and that the penalties are here to stay.
New laws came into effect on 5th December, cutting the level of alcohol permitted during a breath test from 80mg per 100ml of breath to 50mg per 100ml. While this does not equate specifically to units, it is believed that a single pint of beer or a single glass of wine would prove enough to put most people over the limit.
The laws were only changed North of the border, and while Holyrood has the power to implement its own limits, which made these reductions possible, it is Westminster that controls the penalties that are handed down for being over the limit. This disjointed law making is, according to many people, unfair and many groups are complaining that tarring drivers that exceed the new limits but not the old limits with the same brush as those that are massively over the limit is also unfair.
It has also emerged that, of 491 drink drivers that have been prosecuted since the law changes, only 42 of them were between the two limits. They will lose their driving licence for a period of 12 months, could face a fine of up to 12 months, will have their vehicle impounded, and may even face a prison sentence, the same as drivers that are several times over the old limit.