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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Meeting of the Parliament 19 November 2019

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, International Year of Plant Health 2020, Fisheries Negotiations, Committee Announcement (Education and Skills Committee), Business Motion, Decision Time, Road Safety Week 2019


Road Safety Week 2019

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-19344, in the name of Stuart McMillan, on road safety week 2019. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes Road Safety Week 2019, which runs from 18 to 24 November 2019, with this year’s theme being “Step up for Safe Streets”; notes that this is an annual event to raise awareness about road safety, which was started in 1997 by Brake, a road safety charity that works to prevent road death or injury, campaigns to make streets and communities safer, and supports the victims of road crashes; notes calls during this Road Safety Week for everyone to “Step up for Safe Streets” and learn about, shout about and celebrate the amazing design-led solutions that will allow people to get around in safe and healthy ways, every day; commends Road Safety Week for promoting steps that everyone can take to stop needless road deaths and injuries year round; supports the thousands of schools, organisations and communities that are involved in the event each year, and acknowledges hopes that this event will inspire communities to take action on road safety through promoting lifesaving messages during the week and beyond.


I thank all members who signed the motion and those who will speak in the debate.

As colleagues will know, road safety measures are a mix of reserved and devolved matters. The reserved matters include the training and licensing of drivers; the licensing of public service vehicle and goods vehicle operators; the construction and use of vehicles; road traffic offences; and vehicle licensing and taxation. Those that are devolved include the setting of national speed limits; road signs; the use of seat belts on school transport vehicles; and the promotion of road safety. The Scottish Government also has operational responsibility for trunk roads. I will come back to that point in a few moments.

I commend Brake for establishing road safety week in 1997 and for making it an annual event. Road safety is everyone’s business. Sadly, all members will be aware of incidents in our constituencies or regions in which someone’s life has been changed forever or, even worse, lost. Both those situations will be devastating for family and friends alike. When someone survives an accident, they may well have to face many challenges in future years. I pay tribute to every campaigner for road safety and road safety measures. In relation to campaigns about speed restrictions or road safety measures, any new policy implementation must be fully considered and, crucially, workable.

I pay tribute to and thank my friend and colleague Councillor Jim MacLeod from Port Glasgow—he does not know that I am talking about him today. He has been a councillor since 2007 and has been a long-term advocate for disabled rights. As a child, Jim was knocked down, which caused a spinal injury, and he has used a wheelchair ever since. One of his many campaigns has been on the issue of road safety in Inverclyde. Our streets and roads are safer as a result of his interventions. He has raised awareness among the local community through many articles in the Greenock Telegraph.

The issue of road safety measures will never go away. Indeed, it has become even more important with every passing year, as there are more vehicles on the roads. Life is stressful and, if we are honest, we will all know that there are occasions when we believe that we are the most important person on the road at that time. It is important for all of us to remember that, although a vehicle is a positive invention, it is a hulk of metal that can be a killing machine if used incorrectly.

Does Stuart McMillan agree that more could be done to educate young drivers, particularly those who drive in rural areas?

I absolutely agree that more could be done on that. I will say more about younger drivers in a moment, but they certainly have a propensity to be a bit more impetuous and to give less consideration to their surroundings on the roads and to other drivers.

About two months ago, I had another meeting with representatives from Transport Scotland and Scotland TranServ about the condition of the trunk road network in my constituency and the condition of the M8 as it comes into it. I put on record my thanks to both organisations for the fact that, as a result of my continued lobbying, improvements are being made to the network and road users are beginning to have better travel experiences. I am sure that both organisations will be delighted to be receiving fewer emails from me now—although I am still on their case, because I want further improvements to take place.

At the end of that discussion, we spoke about road maintenance and about how some road closures affect communities and drivers. I was provided with some examples of the workforce of those organisations being threatened, both verbally and by drivers speeding towards workers as if to knock them over. Ultimately, the workers are there fixing the roads or laying new ones—they are actually there to help us. Indeed, they help every single person who uses the road network. They do not deserve physical or verbal abuse from inconsiderate motorists. It is just ridiculous that some idiots think it is acceptable to drive their car at a person.

This week, Brake published research on road safety, and it is clear that the issue will not go away—it is something that we have to continually talk about. Of the 2,000 people who took part in that research, nearly one third had had either a collision or a near miss in the previous 12 months. The proportion rises to more than half when we look at just young adults—18 to 34-year-olds. That strengthens Gillian Martin’s point.

In light of Gillian Martin’s point, would Stuart McMillan support the graduated driver licensing scheme that is being launched in America, New Zealand and Australia? The scheme is designed for young drivers and aims to cut new and inexperienced driver accident rates.

I certainly would not be against anything like that. To go back to an earlier comment, any measure has to be workable. As long as it is fully thought through and fully managed, such a scheme would certainly be a useful addition for young drivers.

The figures that I mentioned are startling, and they justify Brake’s “Step up for safe streets” campaign. My motion mentions that schools, organisations and communities are involved in the campaign every year. I am pleased that so many organisations are involved in the various activities this year to improve education about road safety and the solutions that can eliminate road deaths and serious injury.

We can all step up to help by leaving the car at home when possible, which helps to improve safety and air quality, and by pledging to be a safe driver, always keeping within speed limits and never drinking or taking drugs and driving. For some people, those suggestions will never need to be considered. Unfortunately, however, there are still too many people who think that it is fine to drink and drive. Having campaigned on the issue for some time, I am pleased that the Scottish Government has brought in new measures regarding drug-driving offences. Sadly, such measures are required.

I thank Kwik Fit and Specsavers, which have both been involved in the campaign. I know that Specsavers gets involved in various campaigns throughout the year. With its support for the Royal National Institute of Blind People Scotland, the company has been particularly helpful during eye health week. I chair the cross-party group on visual impairment, so I am very much aware of Specsavers’ support. In my opinion, when private business gets involved in campaigns, that strengthens the arguments, highlights the issues and presents an opportunity to reach other people.

Over the years, various measures have been implemented to make our roads safer. The introduction of seat-belt legislation was quite controversial at the time—I might not look that old, but I was around at that point—but it was certainly the right thing to do. I do not know of anyone now who would seriously consider driving a car without putting on their seat belt.

I genuinely believe that our roads are safer as a consequence of the many measures that have been implemented over the years alongside the huge increase in the number of vehicles on our roads. Despite that, we can never be complacent. One life lost or changed forever due to a road accident is one too many. Some people consider that the roads belong to them. They do not; they belong to all of us, including cyclists, runners and pedestrians.

If members would like more information about road safety week, I would encourage them to go to I again thank all members who signed the motion and those who are about to contribute to the debate.


I thank Stuart McMillan for introducing this timely debate to the chamber, and I gladly support his motion. Every year, road safety week gives us a chance to remind ourselves of how important it is to use our roads cautiously and with care for others as well as for the environment.

This annual event was established by the charity Brake, as Stuart McMillan said. The week began on Sunday with the world day of remembrance for road traffic victims, which was a sobering reminder of what we need to do to prevent such tragedies from continuing to happen. In the UK, five people are killed on our roads every day, and among five to 29-year-olds, road accidents are the most common cause of death. Such alarming statistics should be enough to propel us into action to promote road safety.

This year’s theme for road safety week, “Step up for safe streets”, is all about raising awareness of what we can do to promote road safety and safe-system solutions. When designing road works, we need first and foremost to prioritise safety and our health. Safe systems, which offer design-led solutions, mean that road transport networks can be built in a way that lends itself to prevention and protection for everyone. Every road death is unacceptable, so this year’s road safety week puts a spotlight on prevention strategies that create safe spaces, especially for those who are walking or cycling. For children in particular, safer streets mean that they have the option to play outside without any heightened risks from traffic.

The charity Brake has suggested ways in which we can all step up to do our part. Policy makers can work to actively encourage safe-system solutions, and we can embrace the technology at our disposal to make that possible. Schools can equip young people to boldly push for change and improvements in road safety. In essence, everyone can step up by committing to less vehicle use and by advocating for safe-system approaches.

I welcome the many ways in which people have been taking part in and raising money for road safety week. For instance, some will be holding a coffee morning or a bake for Brake fundraiser for the cause. Others will be organising a sponsored walk or aiming to reach 10,000 steps to show the immense benefits of being active outside.

Schools have embraced road safety week, and rightly so—children must be at the forefront when it comes to understanding road safety, because they will be the agents for change in the future. Of those who registered to take part in last year’s road safety week, more than half were educators. Dangerous roads severely limit the participation of children and young people in activities such as cycling or their ability to lead active and healthy lifestyles. It is for their sakes that streets need to be as free as possible from the threat that is posed by traffic. Through positive engagement and interactive workshops, educators are making road safety week real and relevant for young people.

In Scotland, this year’s road safety week will involve an estimated 100,000 people across 450 schools and other organisations, as well as individuals. Of that number, an amazing 60,000 will be children, young people and staff. In the West Scotland region that I represent, Braehead and Carleith in Dumbarton are just two of the primary schools that have registered to take part this year, which is a commendable effort. It is an excellent opportunity to teach young people about the risks on roads to be aware of, and, through the campaign, educators can reach out to parents and the wider community.

We all need to learn those lessons and remember that every road accident is preventable and does not need to happen, with the right approach to and understanding of safety. For drivers, it can be especially easy to forget the vulnerability of the cyclists and pedestrians around us. Every road user needs to be considered, not only by drivers but by road designers and policy makers. That is what “Step up for safe streets” is all about.

I firmly believe that it takes a community working together to encourage road safety. Each one of us in Scotland, myself included, could endeavour to use our car less and opt to walk, cycle or take public transport. We all need to step up our commitment and approach to road safety, not just during road safety week, but every day.


I thank Stuart McMillan for this motion, which is about an event that I have supported for many years. As convener of the cross-party group on accident prevention and safety awareness, I commend Brake for its perseverance and for establishing road safety week.

There have been a lot of interesting comments in the chamber this evening. Stuart McMillan spoke about our being kinder to one another when we are driving, and about consideration being part of that approach. That is an important message, and the point that we cannot fix this issue individually and that we have to do it as a community was very well made.

I will highlight a couple of things that are happening in my community.

A few months ago, I attended an event at an advocacy service for people with learning disabilities, where I met what is known as the clan, which is a bunch of people with learning disabilities. They were very concerned about an injury happening to one of their friends in the group as a result of crossing a road to a sports centre. That road is frequently crossed and very busy, and the sports centre is accessed by people of all ages and all abilities. There is no safe crossing there at all—no pedestrian crossing and no zebra crossing. The group is taking the campaign to the council and to the local area to highlight that we should, when we think about road safety, the nature of our streets and how they are used, and about caring for one other, consider that people have different perceptions of the risks that might be in front of them. That work will be presented to our cross-party group early next year. I look forward to that.

Through the cross-party group, I have got to know about the work of a logistics company, Gist Limited, that works in my area—it is based just outside my Motherwell and Wishaw constituency. Gist feels that it has a commitment to its community. It delivers to many small convenience stores and realises that it drives into our communities and housing areas. It thought that it could do something to improve safety for younger people.

Gist takes its articulated lorries into primary schools, and it has set up educational events that have demonstrated to young people the dangers of being in an articulated lorry at blind spots in particular, and how little can be seen of young people in their environment. The aim is to raise the awareness of young people in the area. It provides equipment, high-visibility vests for young people walking to and from school, and materials with safety messaging on them, for use in schools. It does that work as part of its community engagement. That is a wonderful example of how a company can come together with people and work with them to make our roads and communities safer.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents had its centenary last year, and it produced some safety messaging. One of its most successful campaigns was to do with people walking towards traffic holding a light when they were coming home. That was in the days before street lights were normal or in rural areas. It seemed quite radical at the time to ask people to do such things. It seemed quite radical to ask people to wear a seat belt—Stuart McMillan talked about that. However, safety messages get through to people over time, and people start to change their behaviour and respond in a way that should cause fewer road deaths in the future.


I, too, congratulate Stuart McMillan on securing the debate and on the quality of his contribution.

As we have heard, road safety week is arranged annually by the Brake road safety charity. Like many colleagues throughout the chamber, I have spoken several times in similar debates over the years. We have heard that Brake goes the extra mile—if members will pardon the pun—on the education of all road users. I have dealt with it for many years; it is evangelistic about education and road safety and works very efficiently with schools, colleges, businesses and, of course, the Scottish Parliament, the Westminster Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.

We have heard about this year’s “Step up for safe streets” campaign, which is about creating design-led solutions to make our streets safer. As Brake has made clear, every 20 minutes, someone is killed or seriously injured on a British road, and each of those tragedies is preventable.

For the past decade, I have worked closely with Brake on road safety issues. Along with that road safety group, I set up the north of Scotland driver awareness team, or NOSDAT. We have run more than 24 road safety campaigns in the Highlands and have been fortunate to pick up five Brake campaign awards.

The primary campaign that I launched was on the proposal to introduce a graduated licence scheme for young and new drivers. The prompt for me to act came back in early 2010, when, after a double fatal road collision that involved two 17-year-olds in the city of Inverness, I was contacted by the parents of one of the young people involved, who pleaded with me to do whatever I could to address the on-going carnage.

The campaign was based on the evidence of the eminent Dr Sarah Jones, formerly of Cardiff University, who carried out 10 years of study of Scottish and Welsh road traffic collisions. Dr Jones’s evidence indicated that the introduction of a graduated driving licence scheme in Scotland could save up to £18 million in the Scottish economy. More important, up to 22 lives per year could be saved.

Every week in Scotland, one young person is killed on our roads and 17 young people are seriously injured. Many of them will be permanently disabled or scarred. Education is key. Where education and enlightenment do not work, however, we have to move to enforcement. Those are the three Es: education, enlightenment and enforcement.

There is no doubt that there is a strong voice in support of that form of graduated licence in Scotland. In fairness, the Scottish Government has always supported it. It is, of course, a reserved issue, but do we have the courage to move ahead on this very important issue in the long term, as we know that it will save lives?

We need to prevent unnecessary serious injury, disfigurement and death among our young people—they are our next generation.

For families who have lost loved ones, unfortunately we cannot turn the clock back. However, we can adopt a new, safer, proven driving regime that is aimed at slashing the carnage on our roads and preventing the deaths and injuries of our young drivers. I believe that a form of graduated licence is the way forward. It is supported by Brake, and that message needs to be reinforced during road safety week.

As the American revolutionary author Tom Paine said:

“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”

Yes—but let us do it with road safety in mind.


I welcome Brake and Stuart McMillan’s highlighting this week of the importance of road safety across the country. As others have done, I offer my thanks to Stuart McMillan for securing the debate, and I thank everyone who has made thoughtful contributions to it.

As Stuart McMillan, Maurice Corry and others have correctly stated, one death on Scotland’s roads is one too many. Families, friends and communities are left entirely traumatised following a road death, and the loss of a life can impact many others in profound ways. Such loss of life does not have to happen and we must do everything that we can to prevent it. We should also not lose sight of the fact that, as David Stewart said, there are many examples of people being seriously injured, the impact of which can be life changing.

Scotland has a proud history of road safety performance. I want not only to continue that record but to improve upon it, with the aim of becoming the safest country in the world. I cannot stress enough that road safety is of paramount importance to the Scottish Government. My colleagues and I recognise that we all have our part to play, as road safety is everyone’s responsibility.

This is an important time for road safety, as we near the end of our casualty reduction targets to 2020 and focus on the next decade. The European Commission recently published its road safety policy framework to 2030, which employs the safe system approach for the first time, systematically at European Union level, to underpin the target of a 50 per cent reduction in fatalities and serious injuries by 2030 from a 2020 baseline—an ambitious but worthwhile aim.

Before I touch on points raised by colleagues, I want to cover what has been happening here in Scotland. The 2018 casualty figures were recently published, and casualties were at the lowest level since records began. However, more people were killed on our roads last year than in 2017. That is a matter of great sadness, and it tells me that we need to be ambitious and push to ensure that all our casualty statistics are on a downward trend. As colleagues have said, there is no room for complacency.

The road safety framework to 2020 has served us well. As we have heard tonight, the framework has resulted in a strong partnership approach to the delivery of many road safety strategies and initiatives. That would not have been achieved without the drive and determination of all our stakeholders—Brake, ROSPA, and indeed NOSDAT, to which David Stewart referred—working together to make a positive impact on casualty reduction. However, as we enter the final year of the framework, it is really important that we continue to work together as, collectively, we make the final push to meet all of our 2020 road casualty reduction targets.

I believe that the Transport (Scotland) Bill, which recently passed stage 3, will help to make Scotland’s transport network cleaner, smarter and more accessible for Scotland’s citizens and visitors alike. The new laws on footway parking should make our streets safer for pedestrians, and low-emission zones will improve air quality and health for walking and cycling. Both contribute to road safety week’s “Step up for safe streets” theme, which colleagues have referenced. How we manage speed and emissions on Scotland’s roads could also have its part to play in addressing our climate emergency needs.

I will say something about the importance of protecting people who choose to walk and cycle in order to ensure safe and healthy journeys, which this year’s road safety week promotes. Maurice Corry is quite right: we can improve safety by not using our cars as much and undertaking as many journeys as possible through sustainable active travel.

With our climate change and health ambitions, this Government is more committed than ever to our vision that communities are shaped around people, with walking and cycling the most popular choice for shorter everyday journeys. We know that the perception that roads are unsafe is a barrier against walking and cycling for everyday journeys, and that the reduction of traffic speed can be a positive step in making our towns and cities safer places, where people are confident to walk and cycle more often than they do now. For the second year running, we are committing £80 million a year to support local authorities and our partners to deliver ambitious segregated infrastructure that makes our towns and cities friendlier and, more important, safer.

That budget has also supported innovative behavioural change campaigns, including Cycling Scotland’s #GiveCycleSpace campaign and Police Scotland’s operation close pass, to help change behaviours and better safeguard vulnerable road users—whether they are pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders or anyone else—in our communities who are clearly put at risk by dangerous driving.

The Government also encourages the introduction of 20mph speed limits in the right environment, because they have real potential to encourage more active travel and increase people’s perceptions of feeling safe. We continue to work with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to help identify more straightforward, efficient and effective procedures for local authorities that want to introduce more 20mph speed limits in the right environment. One example of work that is being undertaken is a review of the traffic regulation order process, which will determine whether that creates a barrier to the implementation of 20mph speed limits.

Solutions will be found through collaborative working between COSLA, which is a key stakeholder in road safety, and the Government. In addition, the recently updated “Scottish Safety Camera Programme: Handbook of Rules and Guidance” introduces the ability to flexibly deploy safety camera resources, which can ensure continued support of improved driver behaviour and speed limit compliance in high-footfall areas, where active travel could be encouraged by lower speeds and reduced risk exposure.

The Government places a strong emphasis on road safety education. Road Safety Scotland—the Government’s principal road safety delivery partner—has developed numerous learning resources and social marketing campaigns aimed at tackling the use of inappropriate speed and other poor behaviours on Scotland’s roads.

Inconsiderate drivers are driving at workers who are out improving the roads on the network. Does the minister agree that that is unacceptable? Will the Government consider undertaking a campaign on the issue, to protect the workers who are trying to help us?

I very much agree. I was going to come on to that point, and I apologise that I did not do that earlier.

I certainly agree with everything that Stuart McMillan has said about how unacceptable such behaviour is. In 2018 and 2019, Transport Scotland, through its operating companies and the design, build, finance and operate contracts, ran road work safety campaigns that covered the safety of road workers and road works. It also recorded the number of vehicle incursions into sites and the abuse of staff. I was disturbed to hear Stuart McMillan reference that and what the people with whom he has discussed the issue told him.

The campaign was picked up by various media outlets across the industry, but we cannot be complacent, and we obviously need to continue that messaging. In 2020, Transport Scotland will run a campaign highlighting that verbal and physical abuse and any threat to road workers or office-based staff will not be tolerated by this Government. I thank Stuart McMillan for raising that point.

On the other points that have been raised, I think that Dave Stewart mentioned graduated driving licensing twice, and he is quite right to say that it is a reserved matter. I inform those in the chamber that Michael Matheson has recently written to the UK Government to suggest that a pilot of the graduated driving licence could be undertaken in Scotland. We have yet to receive a response from UK ministers—that may be because of the purdah and the general election—but we look forward to receiving one. We are willing to look at such a scheme, and I hope that our request will be positively received.

I thank Stuart McMillan for raising and campaigning on the issue of drug-driving laws, which were introduced as of last week. Those obviously have an impact on the police’s ability to test motorists who have been involved in accidents, stopped for a traffic offence or suspected of drug-driving. I hope that that, too, will help to improve safety.

Gillian Martin, who is no longer in the chamber, raised the issue of young drivers. We can signpost great examples of young driver training programmes, not least Police Scotland’s excellent work in the Borders.

Looking towards 2030, now is a great opportunity for us all to strengthen Scotland’s position as a world leader in road safety. Work on the development of a new framework is well under way, and key stakeholders are heavily involved in the process. We will continue with the award-winning breathtaking roads motorbike safety campaign, and with others such as the country roads campaign, which won a Prince Michael international road safety award. We will continue that kind of public messaging.

If we are to meet challenging targets such as those that have been set by the EU, we need to further strengthen the way that road safety is delivered in this country. We need to keep working in our current partnerships with a real enthusiasm and commitment, and we need to explore new opportunities such as new technology and connected and autonomous vehicles, which may help to improve road safety in the future. We need to embed all pillars of the safe system approach, which I referenced earlier, at national and local level, and we need to be shining examples of evidence-based best practice, making sure that what we do makes a real difference.

We are proud of the work that is going on here in Scotland. I thank Brake and colleagues across the chamber for raising the importance of road safety this week, and for using the debate to highlight the importance of road safety across the whole of Scotland.

Meeting closed at 17:41.