Kenny MacAskill MSP

Welcome to Kenny MacAskill MSP's biography pages

Kenny MacAskill MSP

Here you can find out about your MSPs' political activities and how to get in touch with them.

  • Member for: Edinburgh Eastern
  • Region: Lothian
  • Party: Scottish National Party

Kenny is a member of the following Committees:

Kenny is a member of the following Cross-Party Groups:

Parliamentary Activities

Search for other Speeches made by Kenny MacAskill

Meeting of the Parliament 20 November 2014 : Thursday, November 20, 2014
Kenny MacAskill

I am happy to consider doing so. The member raised an important point. We debated the proposal to lower the drink-driving limit, and the motion was passed. There was a great deal of support across the chamber and certainly from members on the Labour benches, including Dave Stewart in particular.

As has been suggested, including in the Conservative amendment, further steps could be taken, whether we are talking about graduated licences or a further lowering of the limit, which would require consideration of and power over the penalties that would apply. It seems to me that rather than the Parliament simply having the power to lower the limit we should have further powers to make Scotland safer. We have gone as far as we can with the current limits, and I can certainly consider taking on board the member’s point.



Meeting of the Parliament 20 November 2014 : Thursday, November 20, 2014
The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Kenny MacAskill)

The Scottish Government set out in “More Powers for the Scottish Parliament: Scottish Government Proposals” that we consider that full responsibility for the law on road traffic offences should be devolved to this Parliament. That would allow decisions to be made in Scotland about how best to improve the safety of Scotland’s roads, in the context of Scotland’s road safety framework to 2020.

The devolution of powers would include drink-driving penalties, so consideration could be given to whether changes should be made in the area.



Meeting of the Parliament 18 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Kenny MacAskill

I am satisfied that our judiciary imposes proportionate sentences. If a sentence is thought to be disproportionate, we have an appellate court and, ultimately, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission—which I think would be invoked very rarely in the context of a drink-driving offence. I am happy to accept the spirit of the amendment, although I thought that some of the Conservatives’ comments about the attitudes and actions of the police were rather begrudging.

This is about saving lives. Significant progress has been made and Scotland’s roads are safer as a result of a variety of factors that have been brought into play by Governments north and south of the border. Attitudes have changed.

However, it is important that we remember that alcohol-impaired drivers cause their own deaths and the deaths of their passengers and other road users, including people who were just minding their own business. As I recall, last year’s Christmas road traffic awareness campaign featured a woman who had lost her husband. Her children had seen their father slain when a driver slewed across the road and hit him. The victim was a pedestrian. He was not on the road; he was walking home after a night out, minding his own business, when a driver who was impaired by alcohol lost control and took his life, making his wife a widow and causing his children to lose their father. It is about saving the lives of not just people on the road but pedestrians, who frequently suffer.

As Graeme Pearson and Richard Lyle mentioned, attitudes have changed, understandably and appropriately. Looking back, I see that the attitudes of my friends and perhaps even my own attitude have firmed up and changed over the years. However, it is not just attitudes that have changed. Roads have changed significantly since 1967 and traffic is significantly heavier, meaning that the consequences of a moment’s inattention can be much greater now than they were all those years ago. The power and capacity of vehicles is also significantly greater. I have a vehicle with a 1,200cc capacity, and the power, speed and acceleration of the car that I have in 2014 are significantly greater than those of an engine of a much greater capacity all those years ago. The world has changed and we need to change with it.

I give Margaret Mitchell the assurance that the police will provide the same resources. I do not know of any officer who goes round seeking to meet targets or to climb lists. I know of officers who themselves have been traumatised, and I do not know a police officer who does not take drink-driving seriously. They see the consequences and have to report the bad news to the families, so they, more than anybody, are aware of the action that must be taken.

Nevertheless, I accept that we should go further. Ireland lowered its limit, as members from all sides of the chamber have said. However, when Ireland lowered its limit from 80mg to 50mg, it added a further limit of 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood for specified drivers—this echoes Dave Stewart’s point—meaning learner drivers, those who have recently passed their test and those who drive in a professional capacity such as bus and truck drivers. In Scotland, train drivers, ferry operators and plane pilots have a limit of 35mg, but that is not regulated by the Scottish Government; it is reserved to Westminster. The only power that we have is the power to lower the drink-driving limit, and that is what we have done. When we get other powers, we will look to replicate what has happened in Ireland.

The Road Safety Authority in the Republic of Ireland undertook a review of the lower drink-driving limits in the year following their introduction and found that, notwithstanding the lower drink-driving limits that were introduced in October 2011, the total number of arrests for drink driving had fallen slightly. I think that that happened because—this touches on something that Elaine Murray talked about—the campaign hammered home the message that people should not risk drink driving. The chief executive of the Road Safety Authority, Noel Brett, commented:

“Since 2007, the number of drivers being detected driving under the influence of alcohol has more than halved. Clearly, the introduction of Random Breath Testing in July 2006 and the lowering of the Drink Drive Limits in October of 2011 have been the principal factors behind this drop.”

We do not have the ability to set graduated limits or, indeed, the 20mg and 50mg limits that Ireland has, nor do we have random breath testing. I say to Christine Grahame that the police can stop any car but they cannot randomly breath test unless they have a suspicion that alcohol has been consumed. That is why they ask the driver to open the window. It may be a moot or tautological point, but I think that random breath testing has a place. It has certainly worked in the Republic of Ireland, and I think that the Scottish Parliament should have the power to introduce random breath testing if it wished to do so.

The experience in the Republic of Ireland was that people got the message that they should not drink and drive—that they could not have even two drinks, as Richard Lyle mentioned. However, there are still those who go out to a Christmas party and think that if they stay for the meal they can have a glass of wine and that if they stay for the dance they can have another drink and—lo and behold—they then get into the car.

There is an appropriate argument about the situation the morning after, but the police have been driving home the message about that in recent years. There was a time when nobody gave any consideration to what the situation would be the following morning. However, over recent years, the police have been driving home the message that if people are out drinking—whether at a Christmas party or at any other time of the year—they should make alternative arrangements for the following day. I give members an assurance that we have an appropriate advertising campaign that will run beyond the Christmas/hogmanay period and that we will ensure that those who contemplate driving the following day are aware of their responsibilities behind the wheel of a vehicle.

I end as I started, by paying tribute to Dave Thompson. Some members have the privilege of introducing a member’s bill. Because the matter is reserved, we have not been able to do that in this case, so it is being dealt with by subordinate legislation. It is, nevertheless, the political equivalent of a member’s bill introduced by Dave Thompson, who, since he became a member of this Parliament, has campaigned ceaselessly to lower the drink-driving limit. He has made Scotland a safer place. [Applause.]



Meeting of the Parliament 18 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Kenny MacAskill

This has been a remarkably consensual debate, in the main. We expect no less when we are talking about lives that have been lost and lives that we seek to save.

For that reason, and notwithstanding Elaine Murray’s point, we accept the spirit of the Tory amendment. The Government has given a clear assurance that although we seek the devolution of more powers and are prepared to consider points that Hanzala Malik, Richard Simpson and other people have made, which I will come to, we see no basis on which the reduction from 80mg to 50mg would ever lead to a variation in the mandatory disqualification period of one year—or longer, for subsequent offences or depending on the circumstances of the first offence.

We accept the spirit of the Labour Party’s amendment and agree that there must be an information campaign. I hope to assure members that that can be done. Equally, there perhaps needs to be further focus, and we welcome that.



Meeting of the Parliament 18 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 18, 2014
The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Kenny MacAskill)

Members will be aware that the Scottish Government has long argued that a lower drink-drive limit will save lives and help to make Scotland’s roads safer. Some members in the chamber have also long campaigned on that important issue. In particular, I pay tribute to Dave Thompson. He has been a tireless campaigner for a lower drink-drive limit and first raised the matter in Parliament way back in October 2007.

Earlier this month, we saw the 50th anniversary of the first anti drink-drive television adverts in the United Kingdom. The existing drink-drive limit was introduced in 1967. Social attitudes towards drink driving were very different when the limit was first introduced. It is fair to say that, back then—hard as it may be to believe now—many people really did not think that it was irresponsible or dangerous to get behind the wheel of a car after drinking. Since then, attitudes towards drink drivers have, understandably, hardened considerably.

A survey of UK drivers that was published earlier this month found that 91 per cent of people agreed that drink driving was unacceptable, and 92 per cent said that they would feel ashamed if they were caught drinking and driving. In comparison, in 1979, more than half of male drivers and nearly two thirds of young male drivers admitted drink driving on a weekly basis.

However, the sad truth is that there remains a persistent minority who, despite repeated warnings, put their lives and the lives of others at risk by getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol. In 2012-13, 4,730 people were convicted of drink and drug-driving offences in Scotland’s courts. That may be a dramatic fall when it is compared with the 8,145 people who were convicted of those offences in 2003-04, but too many people are still choosing to ignore the warnings and drink and drive.

The consequences of drink driving can be tragic. Drink driving costs lives. That is why it is right that we take action to reduce the risk on our roads.

Last month, the report “Reported Road Casualties Scotland 2013” was published. It revealed that an estimated 580 casualties and around 10 fatalities were due to drink-drive accidents in Scotland in 2012. The figure for fatalities is a fall on the 2011 figure, but the average for the past four years remains at 20 fatalities. Casualties that resulted from drink-drive accidents have fallen by more than 50 per cent since 2002, from 1,270 to 580. In 2013, 2.4 per cent of drivers who were involved in injury accidents and were asked for a breath test registered a positive reading or refused to take the test.

Although we welcome the reduction in the number of casualties, the figures still show that, over the past four years, an estimated one in 10 deaths on Scotland’s roads—20 deaths a year—involved a driver with a blood alcohol reading that is above the current limit. Another 560 people suffer injury, and 100 of them are seriously injured.

Some have said that our efforts should concentrate on strictly enforcing the existing drink-driving limit and that there is no need to reduce it. Let me be clear: that ignores the scientific evidence that the risks of driving under the influence of alcohol start to increase well below the current legal limit. Indeed, a wealth of research indicates that impairment begins with any departure from zero blood alcohol concentration.

With a blood alcohol level of between 50mg and 80mg, drivers’ vision is affected, slowing reactions to red lights and tail lights. They are more likely to drive too fast and to misjudge distances when approaching bends. Motorcyclists will find it difficult to drive in a straight line.

British Medical Association evidence shows that the relative risk of being involved in a road traffic crash for drivers with a reading of 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood is 10 times higher than for drivers with a zero blood alcohol reading. The relative crash risk for drivers with a reading of 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood was more than twice the level for drivers with a zero blood alcohol reading.

The independent review of drink and drug-driving law conducted in 2010 by Sir Peter North concluded that reducing the drink-drive limit from 80mg to 50mg will save lives.

The current drink-drive limit has had its day. If we look at the drink-driving limits across Europe, we can see that only the United Kingdom and Malta have a legal blood alcohol limit of 80mg per 100ml of blood. Reducing the limit to a lower level of 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, to bring Scotland into line with most other European countries, is the right approach and will make Scotland’s roads safer.

I first raised the drink-drive limit with the UK Government back in 2008. It is a real shame that it has taken until now to reach the point at which we are able to reduce the drink-drive limit to make Scotland’s roads safer.

The Scotland Act 2012 devolved the power to set the drink-drive limit. We welcomed the fact that we have the power to make Scotland’s roads safer through having a lower limit. However, we consider that that limited transfer of power was a missed opportunity. We wanted a package of powers that would allow the police to carry out the breath testing of drivers anytime, anywhere. We also called for powers to allow us to consider differential limits—for example, for young and novice drivers—and the ability to change the penalties for drink driving. However, those powers were not granted by the UK Government.

It is right that this Parliament should have the powers to set appropriate and proportionate penalties for drink driving. I welcome Margaret Mitchell’s amendment, which seeks the Parliament’s views on drink-driving penalties. I presume that that means that she supports the call for such powers to be granted to this Parliament.

We are clear that the automatic 12-month driving ban is appropriate at the current limit and will remain appropriate at the lower limit. There is strong evidence that drivers with a blood alcohol reading of between 50mg and 80mg are significantly impaired, and an automatic ban is appropriate to deter people from drinking and driving.

We will continue to argue for greater powers to tackle drink driving. The Scottish Government’s submission to the Smith commission makes the case that giving this Parliament full responsibility for the law on road traffic offences will help to tackle drink driving, make Scotland’s roads safer and address the anomalies in the boundaries between reserved and devolved areas.

We want the lower drink-drive limit to result in less drink driving, not more convicted drink drivers. To ensure that drivers are aware that the lower limit is coming into effect, the Scottish Government yesterday launched a public information campaign that is aimed at informing all adults of driving age in Scotland. The campaign comprises advertising on television, video on demand and radio; partnership and stakeholder engagement; field marketing; website updates; social media; and public relations. It includes material relating to the effects of alcohol the morning after a night out.

Let me be clear. Whatever the limit may be, it should not be forgotten that any level of alcohol impairs driving and that our central message remains “Don’t drink and drive.”

I am happy to accept the amendments from Labour and the Tories, on the basis that they do not seek to reduce the current period of disqualification as a result of the reduction to 50mg and would welcome the opportunity to consider what further powers might be available and what further action could be taken if we had control over penalties.

I move,

That the Parliament supports the reduction of the drink drive limit, which will help to save lives and make Scotland’s roads safer, bringing Scotland into line with most other European countries, and encourages drivers not to consume any alcohol at all before driving.

15:35  

Meeting of the Parliament 12 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Kenny MacAskill

We have not specifically on this issue, but I recently met Vic Emery to talk about the police budget in the round. From discussions with Police Scotland and the Crown, it seems to me that we are talking about having a better law to deal with circumstances in which a quite unacceptable crime is being committed.

The point that the Lord Advocate has quite correctly made, and which is supported by us and, indeed, by agencies such as Scottish Women’s Aid, is that we know that this behaviour is going on and it is unacceptable. Existing offences can be and, indeed, are being used correctly to prosecute people, but a specific law on revenge porn would make matters clearer and would assist the police and prosecutors, and we will seek to drive the matter forward on that basis. This is about making the law better and clearer, not about increasing costs.



Meeting of the Parliament 12 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 12, 2014
The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Kenny MacAskill)

We have confirmed that we are looking actively at the issue of revenge porn and will set out how action will be taken forward very soon. In the meantime, prosecutors have confirmed that there are a number of existing offences through which people who engage in this criminal behaviour can be prosecuted.



Meeting of the Parliament 12 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Kenny MacAskill

Absolutely. The member makes a fair and valid point. To be fair, the COPFS has sought to ensure that, wherever possible, such cases are dealt with and marked by specialist domestic abuse fiscals. Sheriffs principal have also tried to ensure that, when there is no specialist court, we bring together particular cases on set days and do so with sheriffs who have built up expertise.

This is the same issue that came up when we talked about young offenders, and I recall Dame Elish Angiolini making the point that it is not so much the building of the expertise that matters, but how we deal with the offenders. We need people who are properly knowledgeable and able to deal with the issue, whether they are fiscals or are on the bench, and we need to ensure that we deal with cases as expeditiously as possible, which is a point that Malcolm Chisholm has quite rightly raised. Cases need to be clustered together and we need to make sure that we have resources in court—such as social workers, Scottish Women’s Aid and other agencies—on the right days.

I can assure the member that her point is well made. It has been taken on board by the Crown and the Scottish Court Service and I am happy to drive home the important point that has been raised in Parliament.



Meeting of the Parliament 12 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 12, 2014
The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Kenny MacAskill)

There are already a number of established domestic abuse courts across Scotland in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Dunfermline, Livingston and Ayr. Sheriffs principal are responsible for court programmes, including domestic abuse courts, and under their legislative duty are tasked with ensuring the efficient management of cases in their sheriffdom.

Although Scottish ministers have no locus of control over court programming, it is worth mentioning that the domestic abuse toolkit to aid the development of specialist approaches to cases of domestic abuse, which was published in 2008, was prepared following initial evaluation of the dedicated court in Glasgow and was developed to aid sheriffs principal and local criminal justice partners.



Meeting of the Parliament 12 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Kenny MacAskill

The legislation was brought in by me and passed by this Parliament, and it was, I think, supported by the member, who had campaigned for a single police service—Labour’s position had been for that.

As we heard earlier, Police Scotland is doing a remarkably good job, as the legacy services did. We have heard about the outstanding amount of work that is causing pressures on other aspects of justice, such as tackling domestic abuse.

The chief constable has been clear that there will be no routine backfilling. I will meet Niven Rennie and Stevie Diamond shortly, as I do regularly.

There are financial pressures on Police Scotland, as there are on every public sector and private sector authority in Scotland. The challenges come from us not having control of our own budget, which has implications for us. Those who work in Police Scotland and are required to lead it are rising to the challenge and doing an outstanding job.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
YesCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

S4M-11567.2 Margaret Mitchell: Lowering the Drink Drive Limit—As an amendment to motion S4M-11567 in
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11507.1 Cameron Buchanan: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11507 Angela Constance: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—Th
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11494.3 Jackie Baillie: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11494.2 Alex Johnstone: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11494 Margaret Burgess: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—That the Parliament
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11484.1 Jackson Carlaw: Human Rights—As an amendment to motion S4M-11484 in the name of Roseanna
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Kenny MacAskill
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11567: Kenny MacAskill, Edinburgh Eastern, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11314: Kenny MacAskill, Edinburgh Eastern, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11278: Kenny MacAskill, Edinburgh Eastern, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 23/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11277: Kenny MacAskill, Edinburgh Eastern, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 23/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11114.2: Kenny MacAskill, Edinburgh Eastern, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 07/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11101: Kenny MacAskill, Edinburgh Eastern, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10964: Kenny MacAskill, Edinburgh Eastern, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10634: Kenny MacAskill, Edinburgh Eastern, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 21/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10278: Kenny MacAskill, Edinburgh Eastern, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 10/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09557.2: Kenny MacAskill, Edinburgh Eastern, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Kenny MacAskill
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S3W-33254: Kenny MacAskill, Edinburgh East and Musselburgh, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/04/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S2W-32438: Kenny MacAskill, Lothians, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 15/03/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S2W-32439: Kenny MacAskill, Lothians, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 15/03/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S2W-32437: Kenny MacAskill, Lothians, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 15/03/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S2W-32099: Kenny MacAskill, Lothians, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/02/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S2W-32094: Kenny MacAskill, Lothians, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/02/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S2W-32097: Kenny MacAskill, Lothians, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/02/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S2W-32098: Kenny MacAskill, Lothians, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/02/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S2W-32095: Kenny MacAskill, Lothians, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/02/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S2W-32096: Kenny MacAskill, Lothians, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/02/2007 Show Full Question >>

Further information

Email our Public Information Service for more information.