Ministers today announced their intention to bring in drug-drive limits in Scotland, days after the Scottish Conservatives called for action.
The move by justice secretary Michael Matheson also comes three years after ministers put it off when the UK Government announced limits.
Limits on the amount of specific drugs drivers can legally have in their bloodstream will follow – as are in force south of the Border.
They will be enforced with new “drugalyser” testing devices and are expected to be introduced in 2019.
The Scottish Government said new tests to detect these levels should make it easier to convict offenders as police will no longer have to prove a motorist was driving in an impaired manner.
Officers currently have to reply on roadside tests, such as for co-ordination and balance, or physical cues such as pupil dilation, followed by a urine test at a police station.
However, penalties, which are controlled by Westminster, will be unchanged – a minimum 12-month driving ban, up to 6 months in prison and a fine of up to a £5,000.
Mr Matheson’s announcement comes four days after the Scottish Government responded to the Conservatives call for action by saying it was “considering very carefully whether evidence shows that specific drug driving limits should be introduced in Scotland.”
Two days later, the general election was called.
Mr Matheson said today: “While it is a long-standing offence to drive while impaired by drugs, by introducing new drug-driving limits and roadside testing for the presence of drugs, we will strengthen the ability of our police and prosecutors to tackle the minority of drivers who recklessly put other road-users and themselves at risk.
“Under the new offence, evidence of impaired driving will not be required, with our law enforcement agencies instead able to investigate and prosecute on the basis of a driver being above the specified limits for individual drug types.
The minister said discussions were continuing with Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority, and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service on the operational requirements, including roadside testing.
The necessary regulations, which will have to be approved by MSPs, will be published by the end of the year.
The individual drug limits will be issued “in due course”.
Drug-driving was a factor in 65 crashes in 2015, which caused six deaths, according to the latest Scottish Government figures.
In 2014, when limits for 16 recreational and prescription drugs such as cannabis and cocaine were announced for England and Wales, Scottish ministers said they would “monitor developments”.
The limits were introduced in 2015.
Scottish ministers have had the power to do the same since 2013, but Mr Matheson said they had decided to focus first on lowering the drink-drive limit, which was introduced at the end of 2014.
Neil Grieg of motoring group IAM RoadSmart, which has campaigned for drug-driving limits in Scotland, said: “It is great news for road…