Police Scotland doesn’t collect roadside breath testing figures

Alison McInnes, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson

Police Scotland does not typically record the number of roadside breath tests it carries out, it has emerged.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson confirmed figures related to the number of motorists who are breathalysed are not collected outwith its drink-drive campaigns such as at Christmas and New Year.

Alison McInnes, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson, said the national force should “reconsider this and adopt a position of greater transparency on roadside breath testing”.

Her party submitted a freedom of information (FOI) request asking for the information, with a view to finding out how many breathalysed motorists turned out to have alcohol in their systems.

However, Mr Matheson was forced to admit the data did not exist.

Ms McInnes continued: “Breath tests have been key to preventing and detecting the menace of drink-driving on our roads, but without this information it is nearly impossible to evaluate the extent to which it is an effective use of police time.

“We saw that with stop and search. Hundreds of thousands of people were being subjected to so-called consensual stop and searches with very little being found.

“If we are to ensure we have the right balance between protecting the civil liberties and the safety of motorists, we need an evidence-based approach to policing.”

Chief superintendent Iain Murray defended the police force’s breath testing practices.

Mr Murray told The Scotsman: “All road policing officers in Scotland are trained to carry our preliminary impairment tests in circumstances where they have reasonable cause to believe that a motorist’s ability to drive is impaired through the use of something other than alcohol.

“There are therefore many more vehicle stops each year than there are breath tests carried out, as it is at the discretion of the individual officer to determine whether there are legal grounds to administer a test in each set of circumstances.

“I am confident that the increase in the number of drivers being stopped and spoken to by road policing officers, and the reduction in the number of offences being detected, shows that fewer people are now choosing to put themselves and others so needlessly at risk by drinking and driving.”

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