Bill impact assessed on the Scotland-England border

James Monaghan Publican James Monaghan said it could be hard to advise customers about drink-drive limits

A new bill signalling increased decision-making powers for Holyrood is being watched closely in southern Scotland.

It is proposed to give MSPs greater tax-varying and tax-raising powers - increasing the likelihood of different rates north and south of the border.

Devolved powers to change speed limits and drink-drive laws have also been suggested.

The Scottish government has already said it wants a lower drink-drive limit than currently applies.

Any cross-border differences will be felt most greatly in places like Gretna.

The Gretna Chase hotel is in England - but only by about 20 yards.

Start Quote

If you are driving a vehicle then if you don't have anything to drink in terms of alcohol there can be no worry as to what limit it is”

End Quote Insp Neil Hewitson

It is frequented by customers from both sides of the border who could - in future - be subject to different drink-drive laws on their way home.

Landlord James Monaghan explained: "The implications would be obviously that when people leave here depending whether they turn left or right they would be either on the limit or under the limit.

"It is a bit disconcerting, just to know where you are and what you can consume.

"I think it is going to be very confusing for everybody and it is hard for us as publicans to advise people on what the limits are."

The idea did not appeal to Ann Bielby, tucking into lunch on a shopping trip to Scotland from her home in Cumbria.

"We lived in Scotland for nearly 40 years and we still have two children who live up there," she said.

Susan Clark Susan Clark said it could be "tricky" if staff were taking home different pay for the same job

"Obviously we are crossing the border fairly frequently and so are they, coming down to visit us.

"So, as a family we feel it should be the same either side of the border, it is just a nonsense."

The possibility for confusion is not lost on the police.

Insp Neil Hewitson, of the roads unit in Dumfries and Galloway, said: "A consistent message would have to go out to residents of England that the drink-drive limit in Scotland was lower than it was in England.

"The message would be don't drink and drive at all.

"If you are driving a vehicle then if you don't have anything to drink in terms of alcohol there can be no worry as to what limit it is."

An even more taxing issue might the future levy of income tax.

The Scottish Parliament already has the power to vary it by up to three pence in the pound.

In future it's likely to be able to charge up to 10 pence in the pound less, or to raise it by as much as it wants.

Many businesses in Gretna employ staff from both sides of the border.

'Fair enough'

Susan Clark, director of Gretna Museum and Visitor Services, said: "You have got everybody working together that may be taking a take-home pay that reads two different things for doing exactly the same job.

"It is fine for people further up into Scotland but when you have got this differential of the English and Scottish all working together - which is what we want, a united country - it could be a tricky one."

Her company runs Gretna's old blacksmith's shop - a favourite wedding location for runaway couples - the majority from England.

John Castle and Mandy Kenworthy have just tied the knot there.

Fresh from his matrimonial union, John was relaxed about the possible impact on the bigger Union question if Scotland gets more and more powers of its own.

"I think Scotland has its own parliament and England has theirs, if there are differences that is fair enough really," he said.

And even if the new Scotland Bill proposals eventually go through in full the two countries will remain a long way short of divorce, or even trial separation.

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