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For more details on alcohol laws, please refer to

Scotland’s Drink Drive Limits

Scotland’s drink-drive limit was reduced, by law, on 5 December 2014.

There are strict alcohol limits for drivers in Scotland. It is impossible to say exactly how many drinks this equals as it’s different for each person. Any alcohol in your body will have an effect on your mind and body’s responses. The police advise that even if you’ve had a small amount of alcohol, you shouldn’t drive.

The current limits are:

  • 22 mcg of alcohol in 100 ml of breath (the ‘breath limit’)
  • 50 mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood (the ‘blood limit’)
  • 67 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of urine (the ‘urine limit’)

This means that just one drink could put you over the legal limit for driving.


How to ensure you do not drink and drive:

  • arrange a designated driver when going out with friends
  • use public transport such as bus, train and taxi
  • if you have to drive, drink non-alcoholic drinks


Alcohol and Young People

You can be stopped, fined or arrested by police if you’re under 18 and drinking alcohol in public.

If you’re under 18, it’s against the law:

  • for someone to sell you alcohol
  • to buy or try to buy alcohol
  • for an adult to buy or try to buy alcohol for you
  • to drink alcohol in licensed premises (such as a pub or restaurant)

However, if you’re 16 or 17 and accompanied by an adult, you can drink (but not buy) beer, wine or cider with a meal.

If you’re 16 or under, you may be able to go to a pub (or premises primarily used to sell alcohol) if you’re accompanied by an adult. However, this isn’t always the case. It can also depend on the specific conditions for that premises.

It’s illegal to give alcohol to children under 5.


Alcohol Prohibition Areas

Local authorities have the power to make by-laws to prohibit the drinking of alcohol in designated public places under provisions contained in the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 (under sections 201, 202 and 203) subject to confirmation by Scottish Ministers.


The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 came into force on 1 April 2019. This was introduced in order to align the law in Scotland with the reality that domestic abuse can constitute a wide variety of behaviour, from physical violence and threats, to psychological abuse and controlling behaviour.

The 2018 Act makes all domestic abuse, whether physical or psychological, a criminal offence. A person commits the offence if they engage in a course of behaviour which is abusive towards their partner or ex-partner and is intended to cause them harm, or which is reckless as to whether it causes harm. The offence can therefore be broken down into several elements:

  • The behaviour must be abusive: This can mean any violent, threatening or intimidating but can also mean acts towards the victim, a child or another person which has one of the following effects:-
    • Making the victim dependent or subordinate;
    • Isolating the victim from friends, family or other support;
    • Controlling, regulating or monitoring the victim’s day to day activities;
    • Depriving or restricting the victim’s freedom of action; and
    • Frightening, humiliating, degrading or punishing the victim.
  • There must be a course of behaviour: This means the abusive behaviour must have occurred on at least two incidents. Single events are not covered by the 2018 Act, but may be covered by other offences such as assault or the offence of ‘threatening or abusive behaviour’.
  • The behaviour was committed against a partner or ex-partner: This includes spouses, civil partners, couples living together or people in an intimate personal relationship with each other such as boyfriend and girlfriend.
  • The perpetrator intended to cause harm or was reckless as to whether they were causing harm: This allows the behaviour to be taken into account even if the perpetrator claims that it was not intended to cause the victim harm.
  • That a reasonable person would consider the behaviour likely to cause the victim harm: This is an objective test made on the basis of whether an outsider looking at the situation would consider the behaviour likely to cause the victim harm, taking into account the particular characteristics or any particular vulnerability of the victim. This means that it is not necessary to prove that the behaviour actually caused the victim any harm.

Where the abusive behaviour is committed in the presence of a child, the offence is aggravated which makes the offence more severe and can ultimately lead to a higher sentence.

There is one defence available to a person accused of committing domestic abuse under the 2018 Act. The accused can argue that their behaviour was reasonable in the circumstances. This is designed to protect people where they reasonably believe that their behaviour was necessary in order to protect themselves, their partner or others from harm. For example, where they prevent their partner who suffers from an alcohol addiction from frequenting certain places.


Vulnerable Person’s Database

Police Scotland hold an Interim Vulnerable Persons Database (iVPD). This is the formal way Police Scotland records police contact with adults, children and young people. It allows officers from Police Scotland to record common concerns that there may be a risk to a person’s current or future wellbeing. Concerns can be recorded under the following categories:

  • Child Concerns (including Child Protection)
  • Domestic Abuse
  • Adult Concerns (including Adult Protection)
  • Hate Concerns
  • Youth Offending

This better enables Police Scotland and partners to provide support at an earlier stage where appropriate to do so and take preventative action to stop low level concerns developing into crisis situations. Where there is Immediate Risk of Harm to a child, young person or adult, officers must take appropriate actions to safeguard the wellbeing of the individual.


The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme

This scheme was established to prevent domestic abuse. It gives anyone (male or female) who is concerned that their partner may be abusive, the right to ask the police about any previous history of violence. This enables people to make an informed choice about whether to continue their relationships, and also provides potential victims with additional support and advice.  

The disclosure scheme originated in England, where it is often referred to as “Clare’s Law” after a woman who was killed by her violent partner. In Scotland, the scheme was trialled in Aberdeen & Ayrshire before being rolled out to the rest of the country on 1 October 2019. 

If checks show that the individual in question has a history of violence or domestic abuse, the police will consider sharing this information with the potential victim.  

The form can be accessed online here.



Related links:

Disclosure Scheme Form

Support for domestic abuse victims

The Survivor’s Handbook

Financial Aid

Finding a safety house

Reporting domestic violence

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