ROAD safety campaigners have criticised the "leniency" shown to the ex-wife of a tycoon who has held on to her driving licence despite being found smelling of alcohol in her car on a motorway hard shoulder.

Elaine Grossart, who was formerly married to Hamish Grossart, a member of one of Scotland's most prominent banking dynasties, admitted being in charge of her Toyota four-wheel drive car after consuming excess alcohol when she appeared in the dock at Stirling Sheriff Court.

The 57-year-old, who divorced Mr Grossart in 2008, was the only person in her vehicle when she was breathalysed by police on the hard shoulder of the M9 near Plean, Stirlingshire, and found to be almost a third over the legal drink drive limit.

Adrian Fraser, prosecuting, said Grossart told police she had pulled over to text her son. "She was noticeably slurring her words and repeating herself," Mr Fraser said.

However, Grossart was allowed to drive away from court when Sheriff Gillian Wade decided to penalise her with a fine and points on her licence, rather than an outright driving ban, after hearing that Grossart needed her car to run her business and visit her children at their boarding schools.

The sentence has been criticised by campaigners, who said that it sends out the wrong message to drivers tempted to get behind the wheel after drinking.

Gary Rae, spokesman for Brake, the road safety charity, said: "We are astonished at the leniency shown in this case. The fact that the offender claimed a disqualification may damage her business ought not to classed as mitigating circumstances.

"This incident could have ended in tragedy for her and other road users. Drink driving remains one of the biggest killers on our roads: one in eight road deaths are at the hands of someone who got behind the wheel over the limit."

Margaret Dekker, spokeswoman for Scotland's Campaign Against Irresponsible Drivers, added: "I am frankly astonished. The Government, the police and the Crown Office are all taking steps to crack down on drink driving and save lives, but the judiciary continues to take a lenient view.

"Other people who have pleaded guilty to this offence and have been banned are going to be thinking 'what's going on here?'"

Police on motorway patrol noticed the Toyota parked on the hard shoulder of the motorway with its lights on and Grossart in the driver's seat at about 1am on October 18 last year.

Officers who went to speak to the 57-year-old noticed her breath smelled of alcohol and that her speech was slurred. The socialite also kept repeating herself in response to their questions.

Mr Fraser said that Grossart was unsteady on her feet when she was asked to accompany the traffic officers to their police car, and gave a breath sample which proved to contain 46 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit was 35mg at the time, although it has since been lowered to 22mg.

Martin Black, defending, said Grossart, who won an estimated £2.3 million divorce settlement from her former husband, felt "deep regret and no little embarrassment" over the offence.

He asked Sheriff Wade not to ban her, saying that his client had interests in two businesses, a political research company and a business networking and marketing company, which she had to drive between,

He added that Grossart, of Montrose Road, Auchterarder, also needed to be able to visit her son, 17, and daughter, 14, who were at boarding school in Edinburgh.

Sheriff Wade fined Grossart £800 and ordered 10 penalty points to be added to her licence, saying: "This was a serious matter, and your record does disclose a somewhat cavalier attitude to road traffic offences. However, there's a degree of contrition."

A spokesman for the Crown Office said that there are no plans to appeal the sentence, adding: "We note the decision of the court."