AN INTERNATIONALLY renowned legal expert who urged the UK Government to slash the drink drive limit four years ago has praised Holyrood for implementing his recommendations.

AN INTERNATIONALLY renowned legal expert who urged the UK Government to slash the drink drive limit four years ago has praised Holyrood for implementing his recommendations.

Sir Peter North called for the legal alcohol limit to be cut from 80mg per 100ml of blood to 50mg in a UK Government-commissioned report submitted in 2010, estimating that it would save 100 lives a year across the UK.

His advice was rejected by the Coalition but today Scotland has become the first UK nation to enforce the 50mg limit, bringing it into line with the majority of Europe. Northern Ireland is expected to follow suit next year, leaving only England, Wales and Malta still operating the 80mg limit.

Sir Peter, whose research also paved the way for speed cameras and driver training courses for motorists convicted of road offences, said he expected Scotland to mirror the experience of the Republic of Ireland, which rolled out the 50mg limit in 2011.

Sir Peter said: ??The Irish experience is very interesting because you would perhaps expect that if you brought the limit down, the police would find more people drinking above the new, lower legal limit. But the Irish experience is the opposite. The number of people stopped for drink driving who are over the legal limit has gone down, because people become even more uncertain as to how much they can safely drink.

??If Scotland mirrors the Irish experience, you will find even fewer people driving over the lower limit.

??It??s good to see that Scotland is taking the right decision, as Northern Ireland is, but we in England and Wales are going to have to put up with more dangerous roads for a while longer.??

However, Sir Peter said reducing the limit any further would compromise the case for tough penalties.

A number of European countries, including Sweden and Norway, operate all almost zero tolerance limit of 20mg.

Sir Peter said: ??The problem with that is that the general view is you can??t have a very high penalty at a very low limit. So you will find if you go to Scandinavia the penalties are, if you like, the equivalent of three penalty points and a relatively low fine. The general view here was that we don??t want to mess about with our ??gold standard?? of penalties - that the 12-month compulsory disqualification for drink driving offences is a terribly important deterrent, and I would agree with that.

??So bringing the limit down to 50mg and keeping a very tough penalty seemed to be right. But I think bringing it down to 20mg and maintaining a high penalty would, understandably, meet a lot of public resistance.??

The next major change in the pipeline - also recommended by Sir Peter in 2010 - will be the introduction of roadside drug driving tests.

Legislation making it an offence to get behind the wheel at proscribed limits of illicit and prescription drugs is already part of UK statute, removing the difficulty of proving a driver is actually impaired.

Drug testing kits for 16 different substances, including cannabis, are either completed or in development and expected to be in use by police forces in England and Wales from next Spring.

Scotland has lagged behind but a spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said they would publish their findings later this month.

She said: ??Our priority has been to introduce a lower drink drive limit. With a new limit coming into force, we now plan to publish an independent analysis of Scottish responses to the joint UK/Scottish Government consultation on drug driving in the next few weeks.

??This will inform decisions about next steps regarding whether to introduce a new drug driving offence in Scotland.??