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29-05-2010, 16:03
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Another outcome of the new coalition government is the plan to devolve more powers to the Scottish government (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/10149102.stm), specifically including control of road traffic legislation such as speed limits and the drink-drive limit. There’s a widespread view that this will inevitably lead to cutting the drink-drive limit in Scotland from 80mg to 50mg, regardless of what happens south of the border.

I like Scotland and over the years have enjoyed several holidays there. But it is clear that the country has a distinctly different and more urban-focused drinking culture from England, and I get the impression that rural, village and suburban pubs have much less of a role. The image of a Scottish pub that immediately springs to mind is one of the ornate Victorian Edinburgh bars such as Bennet’s or the Abbotsford, whereas in England you might be more likely to think of a thatched, half-timbered country pub. So the impact on pubs of cutting the limit might be less devastating than it would be here, although there are probably plenty of establishments that over a few years would be rendered unviable, not to mention the increase in prosecutions of unsuspecting “morning-after” drivers.

The rural and island areas of Scotland also have an established drink-driving culture that, in the absence of much more intensive enforcement would inevitably continue. If people think they won’t be caught, then cutting the limit is going to make no difference to their behaviour. This report about Barra (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2003/aug/31/transport.world) describes an extreme example of this phenomenon.

It will also result in the unprecedented situation within the UK of different limits applying across a land border, so what is illegal in one place would be entirely legal a few yards away. The Anglo-Scottish border in general runs through remote and unpopulated areas, so this is unlikely to be a major problem, but if you’ve had a couple of pints and think the police are on your tail, hightailing it south across the line might seem a good idea.

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