Scottish Secretary sceptical over SNP's lower drink-drive limit

DES Browne, the Scottish Secretary, gave a cool response yesterday to SNP plans to cut the drink-drive limit north of the Border.

Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary at Holyrood, is looking at lowering the current limit of 80mg per 100ml of blood, possibly to 50mg. But the issue is reserved to Westminster.

Mr Browne yesterday said that, if it was a good proposal, the change should be introduced across the whole of the UK.

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He also suggested that the SNP government submit a response to the consultation on road safety, which is due to soon be launched by the Department of Transport in London, if it wanted to make its views known.

Mr Browne said in a television interview yesterday that it was wrong of the SNP to try to present the issue as "new".

He said: "This debate about halving the drink-driving limit has been about for a long time and indeed, the Department of Transport is, at the moment, drafting a consultation on road-safety laws and that consultation is about to be published.

"For those who want to make the argument about halving the drink-driving limit, there will be an opportunity for them to do that, and if that's the right thing to do, then it should be the right thing across the UK."

Mr Browne also made it clear he did not support giving new powers to the Scottish Parliament. He insisted he would support new powers for Holyrood, but only within the scope of the original devolution settlement.

He said: "If there are areas where, in a pragmatic sense, it is in the best interests of the Scottish people that powers should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, then I'm up for that."

But he added: "The settlement, embodied within the Act, has a practical flexibility about it ... it is for those people who want to make arguments about the use of that flexibility to make those arguments."