New drug-driving limits and roadside testing are to be introduced in Scotland, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has revealed.
He pledged to build on drink-driving limits and existing drug-driving laws with new curbs against motorists who endanger other road users while under the influence of drugs.
The new drug-driving limits will allow prosecutions where different drug types are detected above specified levels.
Under the new curbs, there will be no requirement to prove that someone was driving in an impaired manner.
Mr Matheson said: “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.
“Subject to Parliament’s agreement and once the new regime is in force, Scotland will be at the forefront of efforts across the UK to tackle drivers who either drink or take drugs – with both the lowest drink-drive limit operating in these islands and drug-driving limits in place.”
Ministers will seek approval from MSPs later this year before the law is introduced in 2019.
The introduction of drug-drive limits was among a number of recommendations by Sir Peter North QC in his independent report commissioned by the UK Government.
Under current laws, it is an offence to be in charge of a motor vehicle while unfit to drive through drink or drugs, with the penalties bringing a minimum 12-month driving ban, up to six months in prison and a fine of up to £5,000.
Once in force, the new offence of driving while above specified drug limits will operate alongside drink-driving laws and carry the same maximum penalties.
Chief Superintendent Andy Edmonston, head of road policing for Police Scotland, said: “I welcome this proposed legislation as anything designed to make our roads safer can only be to the public good.
“Police Scotland looks forward to working closely with our partners and the Scottish Government in the run-up to the introduction of the legislation in 2019 to ensure we are properly prepared.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: “I welcome this step to make drug-driving enforcement more effective.
“Ensuring there are no loopholes in the legislation will make our roads safer and save lives.
“Just like drinking, taking drugs can weakens drivers’ concentration, reactions and motoring skills.
“It is important that legislation is crystal-clear about what is permitted and the dangers associated with taking illegal drugs.”