Drinking and then driving is never a good idea, period; there is no way to do it with complete safety. But when you factor in the unfamiliarity of driving in a foreign country, it becomes especially bad. Being inexperienced with the roads, speed limits, and not to mention the novelty of driving on the opposite side of the road requires complete attention. Governments around Europe are tightening their laws on drink driving. Laws differ from country to country so tourists must be familiar with the laws in the country they will be visiting. Rules in Scotland permit drivers to have 80mg of alcohol per 100mg of blood (although it is recommended not to drive at all if alcohol has been consumed). British laws are relatively relaxed compared to others; the UK rules do not state a zero tolerance to alcohol before driving, like some of the European countries. For example, the Russian government’s view is that if drivers have one drink then they won’t be able to stop drinking, therefore the country has a zero tolerance on drink driving. Laws in France require drivers to carry an unused breathalyser in their car at all times and a fine is charged in the event of the driver not having one. Albeit the British laws are much more relaxed than some EU countries, it is still important to remember that, if visiting on holiday, rules do still apply and the punishments for not adhering to these rules are very severe and not worth suffering for the sake of a couple of drinks.
Scotland has some wonderful dark beers and some of the best whisky brands imaginable, particularly those which are distilled on the islands. You simply cannot leave without trying them. There is an inclination for most tourists to let their hair down when on holiday and have a couple more drinks than they normally would, understandably. This is very much supported by Scotland’s culture and by the Scottish golfing experience, as understood by the many publicans and bar owners in the world class alcohol producing regions that Scotland is famous for. Diageo, a British alcoholic beverage company, is a main sponsor of many sporting events through its multitude of different brands. With regards to golf, Johnnie Walker (a Scottish whisky that originated in Ayrshire, Scotland) is a sponsor of The Championship at Gleneagles. Sponsorship of golf events by Scottish whisky companies portrays the full Scottish golfing experience perfectly. There is a slight tendency for golfers to indulge in a couple of alcoholic drinks on the golf course or after their game; the social nature of the game encourages this inclination. However, consumption needs to be well-thought-out if driving is scheduled later in the day. Visitors should first consider the alcohol percentage of some of the distinctive Scottish drinks that they are likely to try when visiting the country. It cannot be assumed that all the Scottish whiskies have the same alcohol content, and the same goes for local beers. The exquisite island of Islay produces some of Scotland’s most sought after, yet powerful whiskies. Islay has attracted one of the most iconic status’ amongst all of Scotland’s whisky producing islands and even amongst some of the best alcohol producing regions of the world. Lagavulin, Bruichladdich, Bowmore and Laphroaig are among the most famous whiskies distilled on the island and each emits a diverse range of truly unique flavours and aromas. An eclectic range of whiskies is to be found on the Scottish islands and mainland, and the variation of alcohol concentration in each brand should be studied before deciding how much of each is safe to drink before driving. And in most cases, the best advice would be not to drink at all or just a small taster since the strength of each is so widely varied and this makes it difficult to work out a safe amount. After all, the penalties are very severe and life impacting. Whilst Scotland is rather lenient in its allowance of alcohol consumption, we are not so lenient in the penalties applied if the driver is caught over the alcohol limit whilst driving.
Public transport is common on the mainland, although not so much on the islands. Car rental can be found on some of the bigger islands, particularly where there are airports. And car rental is very common on the mainland. So for tourists coming to Scotland from Europe to play golf, car rental is a very feasible option. Driving makes it easier to see more of the country during your trip and gives more flexibility with luggage and golf clubs. The only downside to this is of course the restriction on alcohol if you are the designated driver. Another alternative to public transport and personal driving is to book a driver for the duration of your trip. Email us on the website for details of companies that can provide group transport and full golfing packages in the areas of Scotland that you are interested in.
To finish, here is a guide to drink driving in Scotland to think about as the golf season gets under way:
The maximum allowance for alcohol in the system is 80mg of alcohol per 100mg of blood. In the UK, driving or attempting to drive whilst above the legal limit or unfit through drink carries a maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment, a fine of up to £5,000 and a minimum 12 months' disqualification. It is an offence to refuse to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis. The penalties for refusing are the same as those for actually drunk driving. So, if you have been drinking heavily the night before, this could mean waiting up to 12 hours before driving the next day. The UK rules apply to all drivers, unlike some countries that have different rules for drivers who have held a license for less than two years, for example Greece and Germany. However in any case the best advice is, of course, not to drink at all if you expect to be driving later in the day. British alcohol laws apply to all Scottish islands, so for tourists visiting any islands with a car these guides should be taken into account when planning daily trips and activities.
As I said earlier in the piece and would reiterate: In Scotland we want you to come and enjoy your golf and a sociable drink, just be careful!