MSPs reject bill to reduce speed limit to 20mph

13 June 2019, 17:49 | Updated: 13 June 2019, 17:51

30 mph limit sign

MSPs have rejected proposals to reduce the speed limit on restricted roads in Scotland from 30mph to 20mph.

A Bill which aimed to set a default limit of 20mph, put forward by Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell, was voted down by 26 to 83, with four abstentions at Holyrood on Thursday.

Mr Ruskell had warned that keeping the limit at 30mph would continue to cause death and injury, as he urged MSPs to back the proposals.

"We know that the current blanket 30mph limit will continue to kill, to maim and to destroy lives, and that's a fact that every MSP must think on when they choose which way to vote on this Bill," Mr Ruskell said.

"If this Government wants Scotland to be the best place for children to grow up, then prove it - make their streets safer places to play, walk and cycle.

"If this Government backs 20mph as the safe speed limit in those streets, then please don't leave it to a postcode lottery, lead the change in parliament and back this bill for the sake of all future generations."

The Bill had been under consideration by the Scottish Parliament's Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

However in its report, the Committee concluded that although it approved of the general aims of the Bill, it could not recommend a "one size fits all" policy for lowering speed limits.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson told MSPs that the Scottish Government is supportive of efforts to create safer roads, but stated his preference for council to be able to make their own decisions on where to adopt lower limits, rather than setting it nationally.

"I remain convinced that local authorities are best placed to make local decisions based on their local knowledge and evidence on where 20 mph speed limits should be implemented," said Mr Matheson.

"Both the Government and COSLA have always recognised the ambition of this Bill and understand the rationale.

"However, the practical challenges of a one-size-fits-all approach are significant."

He added: "Both the Government and COSLA remain supportive of creating safer roads for all road users, but this must be achieved through identifying alternative, more flexible ways of widening the implementation of 20 mph zones and speed limits in Scotland.

"Therefore, we are taking forward a range of work with our partners to identify more straight forward, efficient, effective procedures for local authorities in order to encourage wider use of 20 mph speed limits."

Labour MSP Colin Smyth said his party backed the proposal, saying the benefits of reducing speed limits were "clear and evidenced".

He said the "social, environmental and safety benefits or 20mph speed limits range from improved road safety to improved emissions, to increased levels of active travel".

Mr Smyth insisted: "The case for 20mph in built up areas was clear."

He continued: "Drivers are used to driving at 30mph, only by making 20mph the norm will we change that culture and have it so we become used to driving at 20mp. A national approach would help ensure that happens and that the benefits are shared equally amongst communities."

But Tory MSP Jamie Green outlined his party's opposition, saying: "I think it is up to local authorities to make those decisions, and I do not think the approach the Bill took gave sufficient flexibility for local authorities to do what is right in their areas, because what is right in urban Scotland may not be right for parts of rural Scotland."

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat Mike Rumbles insisted as a road safety measure, the Bill was "counter-productive".

He said: "We want to see less accidents and we want to see safer roads across the country. But according to the evidence this Bill would deliver neither."

Mr Rumbles raised concerns that the legislation, if passed, would take resources away from existing road safety activities, as he added the costs of making the change could be "many millions more" than had been estimated.