This headline just makes me irritated reading it. This story was in The Independent in April following a Bank of Scotland report looking at the impact to the economy of the change to the drink-driving law in Scotland.
Scotland’s tough new drink-driving law is proving so successful at stopping people from indulging that it is damaging financial growth, according to one of the country’s top economists.
A Bank of Scotland report published yesterday said it had been a “poor month” for the private sector of the country’s economy. The bank’s chief economist, Donald MacRae, said the new drink-driving law was partly responsible as it had forced people to alter their drinking habits.
“Manufacturing exporters have been affected by the falling Euro, while services businesses in hospitality are seeing a changing pattern of spending resulting from the lowered alcohol limit while driving,” he said.
The new law, which came into force in December, reduced the legal alcohol limit for Scottish motorists from 80mg to 50mg in every 100ml of blood. Drivers have been warned that having “no alcohol at all” is the only way to ensure they stay within the limit – and to avoid planning car journeys for the morning after a night drinking. This is a good thing right so why is it being portrayed as a negative?
In February, a survey of the hospitality sector suggested that Scottish businesses had seen bar sales drop by up to 60 per cent in the two months following the introduction of the new limit.
Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said the new law was so draconian that it amounted to “a form of prohibition” which attacked moderate drinking and frightened people into staying away from alcohol altogether. Really? Draconian. Prohibition. Strong language. How about more road traffic accidents. Death by drink driving. You’d rather that instead?
“It’s stopped people having a drink at lunchtime, or having a drink on the way home from work. People aren’t coming in for food with their families on a Sunday afternoon,” he said.
“We feel it’s had an effect far worse than the smoking ban had in 2006. There’s questions being asked about the future of the trade – it’s probably the last nail in the coffin for independent operators.”
He added that while the Scottish Government had been able to reduce the drink-drive limit, it had not been able to introduce lighter penalties by Westminster, meaning that a driver with only residual alcohol in their bloodstream could still face a criminal record. “The penalties aren’t in line with the crime.”
Ray Lorimer, chair of the Scotland branch of the Institute of Hospitality, said that while the new law was affecting pubs and restaurants, some were “managing the change” by putting on social events during the day to attract new customers. “The smoking ban hurt the pubs, and now the drink-driving – so they’ve got to try and do something different,” he added.
Police Scotland said quarterly drink-driving statistics showing how many motorists have fallen foul of the new law would not be available until the Autumn. In the three weeks after it came into force, 255 people were found to be driving under the influence of drink or drugs compared to 348 a year earlier, a decrease of 27 per cent.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said the country was “leading the way across the UK” by introducing the new law. “Alcohol at any level impairs driving, which is why our message is if you’re driving, the best approach is none,” they added.
“We know that licensees do not wish to place their customers or other road users at risk, and if people act responsibly, for example by nominating a designed driver, this will help mitigate any impact on trade.
“We are determined to end the tragedy of deaths caused by drink driving, and if this new law saves one life, then it will be a success.”
As one commentator to the piece says ‘What’s more important: profit for the alcohol industry or peoples lives?’ Indeed.
Edited to add: 11th April 2016
Alcohol is set to be sold at one of Scotland’s busiest motorway service areas for the first time | Scotsman, UK