Alcohol and the Law

What does the law say about buying alcohol, drinking alcohol at home, on the street and in the pub?

Drinking and the Law

What age can I buy alcohol?: 

You have to be 18 years old or over to buy alcohol. If you’re under 18 it’s against the law for you to buy alcohol and for shops to sell it to you.

If you’re 18 or over then it’s against the law for you to buy or try to buy alcohol for someone who is under 18.

Drinking alcohol age limits: 

It’s illegal for children under five to drink alcohol, even in her/his own house. 

When it comes to pubs, young people under 14 can go to a pub that has a children’s certificate, but it must be with an adult in the family area. You can’t drink alcohol. If you’re under 16 then you can go into the pub with an adult, but you’re still not allowed to drink.

If you’re 16 or 17 you may be given wine, cider, beer or perry to drink with a meal in a hotel or restaurant, provided that food is served in a part of the premises away from the bar.

Licensed premises may ask for you to provide proof of age if you are buying alcohol and look under the age of 25. Don't be offended if you are id'd, staff are just following the Challenge 25 policy!

Drinking in public places: 

If you are under 18 you can have alcohol confiscated by the police if it is being drunk in a public place. 

If you are over 18 you can have alcohol confiscated in a public space if the police believe you are giving it someone who is under 18.

If you are over 18 it is not necessarily an offence to drink alcohol in a public place, however many local authorities have passed bye-laws to ban drinking in public places. For example, in Glasgow there is a vigorously enforced drinking ban in all public places.

What does the law say about drink driving?: 

The legal limit for drivers in the UK is 50 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. It is difficult to convert that into a certain number of drinks as it depends on the person in question. How much alcohol is in your blood depends on factors such as your tolerance, weight, gender and how much food you've eaten. 

Even one drink can put you over the limit, so if you are planning on driving it is safest to not drink any alcohol at all!

There are so many different factors that affect how your body processes alcohol. Alcohol affects your co-ordination, reaction times and increases risk taking. It is safer just to avoid drinking if you know you will be driving. 

Driving in the morning after drinking the night before: 

Even if you have been drinking the night before you might still be above the legal driving limit the next morning. It takes your liver approximately one hour to process one unit of alcohol, so if you have had a bottle of wine and finished drinking at 9pm you may still be over the limit at 7am!

If you get caught over the limit then you will be banned from the road for at least 12 months and fined up to £5,000. You can also be sent to prison for up to six months.

For more information on the legal limits of drinking alcohol, visit the Alcohol Focus Scotland website