Skip to main content

Language: English / Gàidhlig


Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, June 13, 2019

Meeting of the Parliament 13 June 2019

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, World Environment Day 2019, Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body Question Time, Portfolio Question Time, Disclosure (Scotland) Bill, Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1, Wild Animals in Circuses (No 2) Bill, Point of Order, Decision Time


Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame)

The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-17660, in the name of Mark Ruskell, on the Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill.


Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

Since devolution, there have been choices for the Parliament to make, in order to break from the status quo, be bold and lead the change. From the smoking ban to the minimum pricing of alcohol, the Parliament has led the way in making small changes that will have a big impact on the health of our nation for generations to come.

Today, I am asking Parliament to take another step forward to make our streets and communities permanently safer. Speed limits of 20mph make a big contribution to the safety of everyone on the streets on which we live, especially to the safety of children. They reduce speeds, prevent deaths and injuries and encourage choices to walk and cycle, while public support for them continues to grow year on year. Yet 20mph speed limits remain exceptions to a blanket 30mph rule that was set nearly 90 years ago; they are expensive to introduce and inconsistently applied. It a postcode lottery as to whether a community is protected and our most deprived communities are often left behind.

I am asking Parliament to consider the fundamental question: what should be the default speed limit on the streets on which we live? If the answer to that question is 20mph, the bill is the only credible approach that delivers that goal in a way that is nationally consistent, timely and cost effective.

Over the past three years, I have been delighted to work with a wide range of organisations, including councils, public health bodies, road safety organisations and schools, and many thousands of individuals who back the bill. Public support has been strong—countless studies have shown that the majority of the public supports 20mph limits and that the support goes up when the limits are introduced.

More than 1,900 people responded to the initial consultation on the bill and well over 6,500 people responded to the consultation that the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee ran, which showed 62 per cent support. I particularly thank Rod King and the team at twenty’s plenty for providing support through their extensive networks across the United Kingdom in building the case for the bill.

Last year, I was delighted to be invited to address meetings in Wales, including in the Senedd, where there is now a strong cross-party consensus, with the First Minister recently announcing that Wales will be switching to a 20mph default national limit. The Welsh proposal to allow councils to retain 30mph limits on a minority of roads of their choosing exactly mirrors my bill, and will make Wales the first 20mph nation in the UK.

I also thank councils for their active support: Orkney Islands Council, Shetland Islands Council, Glasgow City Council, the City of Edinburgh Council, Angus Council, East Renfrewshire Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Midlothian Council, Renfrewshire Council, Stirling Council, East Dunbartonshire Council, Highland Council, Aberdeen City Council and South Lanarkshire Council have all been strong supporters.

Glasgow City Council recently passed a motion in support of the bill, while the City of Edinburgh Council has said that, had the bill been in place at the time, it would have halved the cost of its 20mph roll-out. Councils that want to make the streets where we live safer want a default 20mph limit. Only a small minority of councils, most notably Scottish Borders Council, are out of step in wanting to choose whether to implement 20mph limits. Why should a child who is growing up on a street in Galashiels deserve any less protection than a child who lives on a street in Edinburgh?

Throughout the development of the bill, my team has also worked closely with the members of the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland, which is the representative body of all roads authorities. They are the people who will be directly responsible for implementing the bill. I thank them for their input into the costings and their continued support, which was reaffirmed last night in their formal response to the committee’s report.

Many councils now await the introduction of this bill to make the full roll-out of the 20mph limit cheaper and easier across their communities. On the public health case, I have been delighted to work with organisations including the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, the Faculty of Public Health, the British Heart Foundation, the British Lung Foundation and NHS Scotland; they all back the bill. The Glasgow Centre for Population Health was instrumental in helping us to understand the impact that the bill would have on protecting and saving lives. Its study showed that, even with a modest reduction in average speeds, every year, the bill would save five lives, 750 casualties and £39 million. Real people’s lives will be saved and transformed and real savings will keep coming every year for decades to come—all for the cost of simply changing the road signs.

Liam Kerr (North East Scotland) (Con)

Will the member take an intervention?

Mark Ruskell

Yes, if I can get the time back.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Yes, you can. There is time in hand in this debate. I can be flexible, which is good for everybody.

Liam Kerr

Does the member not concede that that only happens if the impact of the bill is, as he wishes, to reduce the speed limit in practice?

Mark Ruskell

That is a basic question and I point the member to the extensive policy memorandum, which details all the studies that show the kind of speed reduction that we would get if we implemented the 20mph limit across the nation. The bill is predicated on the existing roll-out of the 20mph limit in cities around the UK. We are not starting with some kind of rocket science. We already know the impact of 20mph zones. We know what the impact will be if we go for a national default.

We also know the devastating impact that a fatality can bring to families and communities. Even minor incidents can destroy a person’s confidence, leaving them unable to cycle or fearful of traffic for the rest of their lives. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said that the bill would

“have an immediate beneficial impact on”

the health of children and young people, creating

“safer places to walk, cycle and play, reducing fatal and non-fatal injuries”.

I have also been pleased to work with a huge range of organisations that know that the bill will transform the liveability of our communities. Sustrans, Living Streets Scotland, Cycling UK, British Cycling, Scottish Cycling, Transform Scotland, pedal on Parliament, Ramblers Scotland, Friends of the Earth, Paths for All, Brake, Spokes, GoBike, Guide Dogs Scotland and dozens of community councils and parent councils all back the bill.

A joint letter from more than 20 national bodies and the newly appointed active nation commissioner, Lee Craigie, was clear and unequivocal in its support, saying that

“A Scotland-wide reduction in speed limits will save lives every year, not only through reduced casualties but, as more people choose active forms of travel and the air quality in our communities improves. We cannot wait for local authorities to implement this in a few limited areas, as and when they have the resources. We cannot wait for more studies.”

The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee heard many of those arguments. They were highlighted in its report, which concluded that sign-only 20mph limits deliver “important increases” in walking and cycling and agreed that

“20mph zones can contribute to social inclusion, the quality of life and the ‘liveability’ of neighbourhoods and streets.”

The report went on to say that

“the Committee supports the deployment of 20mph zones in Scotland, especially where pedestrians are present, and acknowledges the road safety benefits that this would deliver.”

How, then, could both the committee and the Government conclude that discretion should be given to councils to do nothing about a 20mph speed limit? I find that quite unfathomable, given that we know that the current blanket 30mph limit will continue to kill, maim and destroy lives. That is a fact that every MSP must think on when they choose which way to vote on the bill.

If the Government wants Scotland to be the best place for children to grow up in, it should prove it by making their streets safer places to play, walk and cycle in. If it backs 20mph as the safe speed limit in those streets, I ask it please not to leave it to a postcode lottery. Leave the change to Parliament instead, and back this bill for the sake of all future generations.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill.


Edward Mountain (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I am pleased to contribute to the debate as convener of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

The committee’s stage 1 report, which was published on 31 May, is clear. The committee supports the bill’s policy aim of seeking to widen the implementation of 20mph zones in Scotland in order to reduce death and serious injury on our roads. I thank the member in charge for promoting that important objective and his recent response to our report, and I also thank the cabinet secretary for helpfully responding to the report before today’s debate. Finally, I thank all those who submitted evidence to the committee and the clerks for their help and support in the process.

It is important to highlight that the committee heard very mixed views on the bill. Furthermore, the available research was also often mixed, and the conclusions were often very inconclusive. That has shaped the committee’s conclusions on this bill, to which I will now turn.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Will the member give way?

Edward Mountain

I am prepared to do so, if I can get the time back.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I have already said that there is time in hand for everybody, so do not be feart.

Edward Mountain

In giving way, though, I ask the member to remember that I am reflecting the views of the committee, and will do so carefully.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

You have been told, Mr Finnie.

John Finnie

I am grateful to the member for taking the intervention. I absolutely accept that that is what the committee convener will do, but will he also point out that, although we did hear mixed views, members themselves interpreted the evidence that we heard differently?

Edward Mountain

Indeed, and as I make progress through my speech, I will of course try to reflect the difference of opinion between members.

On the issue of public health outcomes and social benefits, the committee concluded that 20mph sign-only zones have contributed a small but important increase in active travel modes such as walking and cycling, due to an increased perception of safety. We also acknowledged that reducing the speed limit might improve air quality, although the evidence on that was inconclusive. We also felt that 20mph zones might contribute to social inclusion, quality of life and the liveability of neighbourhoods and streets, but only effectively if they were part of wider urban place making.

The committee also heard mixed views on whether 20mph speed limits would have an impact on either journey times or traffic congestion. The available research suggested that 20mph limits do not generally have a significant impact on either.

As for the practicalities of implementing the bill, I would like to highlight the following points on behalf of the committee. The bill proposes that its provisions be commenced at the end of a period of 18 months after its enactment, but the public agencies that would implement the bill’s provisions called for a longer period, given existing and forthcoming commitments.

With regard to compliance and enforcement, the committee found that current compliance with 20mph speed limits is poor and that a combination of measures such as traffic calming and speed limits is more effective than a speed limit by itself.

Andy Wightman (Lothian) (Green)

Will the member give way?

Edward Mountain

I am prepared to do so, on the basis that I outlined earlier.

Andy Wightman

The member’s points about compliance and commencement can be addressed as the bill proceeds through Parliament. Does he agree that they are not germane to the principle of the default speed limit in Scotland?

Edward Mountain

I am sure that other members of the committee will comment on that. However, what we heard from Police Scotland is that it does not prioritise enforcement of current 30mph or 20mph zones. Police Scotland confirmed that its focus is on enforcing speed limits on higher speed roads where serious accidents are more likely to occur.

Daniel Johnson (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)

Will the member give way?

Edward Mountain

I am afraid that I have already taken two interventions. [Interruption.] I think that it is fair to allow the committee convener to try to put the committee’s view across without questioning him on it, as members will have an opportunity to question each committee member.

As I said, Police Scotland is focused on enforcing limits on higher speed roads. That might not be viewed as an impediment to compliance with 20mph limits. However, the committee was of the view that the proposals in the bill would be unlikely to result in any change to Police Scotland’s approach to enforcing speed limits.

On the issue of public awareness, the committee heard that a detailed, concerted campaign would be required to raise awareness of the proposed reduced speed limit, should the bill be passed. We learned that such a campaign would need to be more extensive and sustained than the bill proposes. Overall, it would need to create a major shift in the cultural understanding of why the speed limits exist, with the aim of increasing compliance rates.

The committee also found that the existing processes for local authorities to implement 20mph speed limits are cumbersome and resource intensive. We are of the view that those processes should be more straightforward to make implementation easier. Consequently, we welcomed the Scottish Government’s current exercise with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland to consider ways in which those processes can be simplified and improved. The cabinet secretary’s response to the committee’s report does not provide any further information on that exercise. I ask him, on behalf of the committee, to ensure that the committee is kept updated on the progress and outcomes of the review.

The committee also heard about wide-ranging uncertainties around the estimated costs and savings for the bill, leading the committee to conclude that the financial memorandum is not robust. Costs that were not fully recognised include the following: assessments of affected roads; local authorities wishing to retain roads as 30mph zones; and establishing the total number of restricted roads that would be subject to the bill’s proposals, given that this number is not known. There was also no estimation of the costs related to staff and resources in the police force and criminal justice system or of Scottish Government costs for the trunk road network.

The cabinet secretary has clarified in his response that the Scottish Government would have to provide additional financial support to local authorities if the bill were passed. However, that financial support would have to come from existing transport budgets, potentially diverting resources away from existing activities.

Finally, the committee also noted the very clear message given by the Scottish Government throughout the stage 1 process that a great deal of further consideration to the process, impact and consequences of a nationwide default 20mph limit on restricted roads would be required before it would be in a position to fully support the bill.

The key point for the committee has been to determine whether the bill’s proposal to introduce a 20mph speed limit on all restricted roads in Scotland by default is the most effective way to deliver a significant increase in 20mph zones. Our majority view is that the default approach proposed in the bill is not appropriate, as it does not give local authorities the flexibility to devise 20mph limits that they consider appropriate for their areas.

As a result, the committee is unable to recommend the general principles of the Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill to the Parliament. I look forward to hearing other members’ contributions to the debate.


The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity (Michael Matheson)

First, I thank Mark Ruskell for his member’s bill, which has generated a wide-ranging national debate on 20mph speed limits.

I have followed the committee’s consideration of the bill closely, and I would like to thank its members for their diligent and comprehensive scrutiny of the bill’s proposals. I note the findings of the committee; I am sure that the committee’s decision was a difficult one to reach, which highlights the complex nature of the matter.

I will briefly explain why the Scottish Government is not in a position to support the bill. Through “Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to 2020”, we are committed to reducing road risk. Scotland has well-established casualty reduction targets on which we have successfully made progress in recent years. The Government is also committed to an active travel vision in which communities are shaped around people, and in which walking and cycling are the most popular choices for shorter everyday journeys.

The bill brings together two issues that must not be conflated. The first is the question whether 20mph speed limits are beneficial. The Scottish Government’s clear view is that we support implementing 20mph limits in the right environment, because they have the potential to encourage more active travel and increase people’s feeling of safety.

The second issue is the question whether the blanket approach is the best way of achieving the desired benefit.

Andy Wightman

The cabinet secretary refers to a “blanket approach”, which reflects the committee’s language about “a one-size-fits-all approach”. Surely, as a matter of principle all around the world, a default speed limit is a default speed limit: it takes a one-size-fits-all approach. The only question is whether the speed limit should be 30mph or 20mph.

Michael Matheson

The committee’s point was about compliance and effective operation. We must have a default speed limit on which we can get greater levels of compliance. The evidence shows that if additional measures are not provided alongside the speed limit reduction, compliance is not of a good standard.

Further consideration would need to be given to the process for, impact of and consequences of a nationwide default 20mph speed limit, including an assessment of Scotland’s road network, before we could be sure that the bill would achieve its aim. We would need to ensure that the bill would have no unintended consequences, such as detrimental effects from reducing the speed limit to 20mph on some restricted roads, or inhibiting consistency across the country by not reducing the limit on non-restricted roads where a 20mph speed limit would be desirable.

Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green)

The cabinet secretary suggests that we should not pass laws unless we are absolutely sure that they will be enforced. Did he take that view when Scotland decided to ban smoking in public places? The cabinet secretary must have a vision. He does not like presumed liability, he will not pay for infrastructure and he is not interested in reducing the speeds on our roads. What exactly will he do to make Scotland’s streets safer for people?

Michael Matheson

As I have made clear, the Scottish Government supports the introduction of 20mph zones. However, we do not support a one-size-fits-all blanket approach to all restricted roads, which is exactly what the bill proposes.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

Will the cabinet secretary take an intervention?

Michael Matheson

Let me make progress.

To achieve the benefits that 20mph speed limits bring, particularly for road safety, we need to ensure compliance with them. Police Scotland clearly advised the committee that speed limits should, in effect, be self-enforcing and seen to be appropriate by a significant majority of motorists. Implementing speed limits that are appropriate to the road design and conditions, rather than applying a blanket 20mph sign-only speed limit, ensures that other speed limits are not brought into disrepute.

I note the committee’s conclusion that the bill’s proposed approach for all restricted roads to default to 20mph before an assessment has been carried out to examine whether the current speed profile and road design lend themselves to a sign-only 20mph speed limit is not appropriate. It would restrict local authorities’ flexibility to devise 20mph limits that they consider to be appropriate in their areas.

Daniel Johnson

Will the cabinet secretary please explain why on earth a road whose design is acceptable for a 30mph limit is not appropriate for a 20mph limit? I do not understand that and would appreciate an explanation.

Michael Matheson

In its report, the committee highlights the fact that design features are key factors that influence the speed at which people drive on roads. That is why, for many 20mph zones in various local authority areas, there are additional traffic-calming measures in order to achieve compliance. Sign-only 20mph speed limits do not achieve that level of compliance. The evidence from cities that have taken that approach has demonstrated that. That is why I remain convinced that local authorities are best placed to make local decisions, based on their local knowledge and evidence on where 20mph speed limits should be implemented.

Both the Government and COSLA have always recognised the ambition of the bill and understand its rationale. However, the practical challenges of a one-size-fits-all approach are significant. Both the Government and COSLA remain supportive of creating safer roads for all road users, but that must be achieved through identifying more flexible alternative ways of widening implementation of 20mph zones and speed limits in Scotland.

Therefore, we are taking forward a range of work with our partners to identify more straightforward, efficient and effective procedures for local authorities, in order to encourage wider use of 20mph speed limits. One example of the work that is being undertaken is a review of the current traffic regulation order process, which will determine whether the process creates a barrier to the implementation of 20mph speed limits. We have sought the views of local authorities on the TRO process, and have provided an opportunity for them to detail their concerns and to consider whether the process could be streamlined. Once that analysis is complete, we will share the results with stakeholders and outline options that could be pursued to improve the process.

Mark Ruskell

Will the cabinet secretary give way on that point?

Michael Matheson

I want to make progress, and I am about to finish.

Solutions can be taken forward through collaborative working with our partners in local authorities. I consider that the blanket sign-only approach that is proposed in the bill, without identification of the roads that would be affected, will not achieve its aims. The road assessment is required in order to examine whether the current speed profile and road design lend themselves to sign-only 20mph speed limits, and whether they will achieve the benefits that we all wish to see.

Given all of the above, I support the conclusions and recommendations of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. I can also assure the chamber that we will continue to take forward measures to assist our colleagues in local government to introduce a wider range of 20mph speed limits in urban areas.


Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

I sincerely thank Mark Ruskell, his staff and his team for bringing forward the proposed legislation. We appreciate the hard work that goes into a member’s bill; I can only imagine the workload that it has added to his office. I give credit to the member, because in the very early days of the process, from day 1, he took a great deal of time and effort to meet Opposition members, to share his thoughts and to listen to our views and concerns. I was happy to welcome members of the twenty’s plenty group to my office and to have a frank and productive conversation with them. Such was and is my good will in approaching the bill logically and respectfully.

Even though the majority view of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee was not to recommend the general principles of the bill, that does not mean that Conservative members do not support the concept of lower speed limits or zones, nor is this the end of the road when it comes to how we, as a Parliament and as politicians, hold the Government to account on the issue.

I will not lie: when the bill was originally announced, I was quite sceptical. However, as a member of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, as my party’s spokesman on transport, and as a pedestrian, cyclist and driver, I approached the debate with an openness to listening and learning. What struck me most in the stage 1 evidence sessions was the sheer inconsistency of the evidence and data that were presented to us, and the conflicting and, at times, confusing views that were presented. I see members shaking their heads, but I sat there for every evidence session.

The committee genuinely found it difficult, when meeting in private following the evidence sessions, to agree on the outcomes and to accept the veracity of the evidence. A bit of me hoped that such would be the strength of the evidence that it would be profoundly helpful, one way or the other. However, that was not the case.

I appreciate that the recommendations in the committee’s report will not please everyone, and must be deeply disappointing and frustrating to the lobby that supports the bill, but I assure members that we approached and considered the issue diligently, as parliamentary committees should do. We gave the member and the bill the respect that they are due, but we came to the conclusion that we could not support the bill. That did not feel in any way like a victory to the people who were not keen on the bill from day 1.

Let me be honest and ask this about the status quo: is the system for rolling out 20mph zones in this country working perfectly? Is every community that wants a reduced speed limit in its area able to secure a zone easily and efficiently? If the answer to those questions is no, I suggest that today’s debate is not the end but the beginning of the conversation, because any suggestion that the committee did not support the principles of the bill because we do not care about public safety, children, cyclists, pedestrians or the environment is misguided and unhelpful.

Daniel Johnson

I appreciate that Jamie Greene would like to go further on 20mph. Will he enlighten Parliament on the proposals for 20mph limits that the Conservative Party will have in its next manifesto?

Jamie Greene

We are happy to support the further roll-out of 20mph zones. Let me say two things about that. I was going to come to this later, but I am happy to do so now. First, the current TRO process is, as the committee said, “cumbersome”, “onerous” and “difficult” for local authorities that want to introduce 20mph zones; it should be improved. Secondly, as other members said, it is for local authorities to make those decisions: I do not think that the approach in the bill gives local authorities sufficient flexibility to do what is right in their areas. What is right for urban Scotland might not be right for parts of rural Scotland.

Colin Smyth

Will the member give way?

John Finnie

Will the member take an intervention?

Jamie Greene

I ask members to let me make progress, please—

John Finnie

It is on that very point.

Jamie Greene

I have a lot of points to make. I will make progress, and then I will happily let members in.

We heard from a wide range of stakeholders. I will not go into the evidence that we heard; other committee members or members who have an interest in the matter will do so.

We need to look at the practicalities of what a nationwide change from 30mph to 20mph would look like. The convener talked about the rather controversial comments from Police Scotland, which said in March that catching people who break the 20mph limit would not be a priority. I think that Police Scotland has acknowledged that that was not an easy or popular thing to say. In a subsequent submission, Police Scotland said that people

“may not understand the evidence-based decisions behind our current deployment priorities nor accept that resources are finite.”

Of course, it is right that the police should tackle all rule breaking on our roads. In a perfect world they would. However, it is logical that the police must deploy their resource in the hotspots where there are the highest number of road traffic accidents and fatalities. They must tackle dangerous and high-speed driving on roads such as the A909 and A809, not people who drive down Broughton Street in Edinburgh’s new town at 25mph at 2 am.

We have to be realistic, and we have to legislate sensibly.

Mark Ruskell

Will the member give way?

Jamie Greene

I will, if I have time.

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

Indeed you do.

Mark Ruskell

Did Mr Greene engage with the evidence from Professor Adrian Davis that said that although a high number of people are killed on rural roads, a far greater number of people are seriously injured—with life-changing injuries—on residential streets? We are talking about people dying in residential streets—where my school friend died. He did not die on a road like the A9; he died on a residential street in the area where he lived, and it is in residential streets that the police need to take more enforcement action.

Jamie Greene

The member has made his point and I hope that the police are listening to it and will reflect on it.

This has not been an easy bill to consider, but the committee gave its all. There is nothing in the bill that we did not look at. We looked at the finances—I know that it is not all about money. We looked at the impact that the approach would have on average speeds, and we found that the result would be negligible. We looked at congestion, we looked at air quality, we looked at accident reduction and we looked at adherence to and enforcement of 20mph limits. Nothing was left out. The bill did not garner sufficient support, and although our scrutiny answered some questions, it generated many more.

I will end on a mixed note. As I said at the outset, I do not think that the Government has been let off the hook on the issue; I would like the current process to be improved. Mark Ruskell’s aims and ambitions are laudable, and I hope that he will command the respect of the chamber for introducing his bill. However, in my view, it is the wrong answer to the right question. Mr Ruskell can rest assured that, if the Government does not react to his concerns or to the committee’s concerns, Conservative members will work with him and anybody else to ensure that, if there continue to be barriers to establishing 20mph zones where they are wanted, he will have our support in tackling them.


Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

I am pleased to open the debate on behalf of Labour and to make it clear that we will vote to put children’s safety first by supporting the bill.

It is important to put on record the fact that, although some members have referred to “the view of the committee”, it was not the view of the whole committee; almost a third of the committee’s members clearly dissented from that view.

I thank Mark Ruskell for introducing the bill, because it has put the issue of lower speed limits on the political agenda and forced a long-overdue discussion on the failure of the current approach to 20mph limits to deliver the benefits to more communities.

Those benefits are clear and evidenced. Research by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health showed that the introduction of a 20mph speed limit in Scotland could result in up to 755 fewer casualties a year and five fewer fatalities. Multiple studies have shown a reduction in emissions, with research in Wales suggesting that transport emissions are reduced by 12 per cent where there are 20mph limits. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that 20mph limits be introduced because of the benefits that that brings in reducing air pollution. Research by the Department for Transport reported a “statistically significant” increase in active travel in response to the introduction of 20mph speed limits, and Edinburgh’s pilot showed that there was a 7 per cent increase in the number of journeys that were taken on foot, a 5 per cent increase in the number of journeys that were taken by bike and a 3 per cent decrease in the number of journeys that were taken by car.

During stage 1, the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee heard about the social, environmental and safety benefits of 20mph speed limits. From improved road safety to reduced emissions to increased levels of active travel, the case for 20mph limits in built-up areas was clear. We are not talking about a rural versus urban issue. The bill would enable residential areas, whether they are in villages or cities, to gain from those benefits, and that is why it has strong public support—indeed, it received the backing of more than 80 per cent of the respondents to its consultation. Given the strength of the evidence and the support for the bill, I am disappointed that a majority of committee members decided not to recommend that the general principles of the bill be agreed to.

One of the myths that people cite in opposition to the bill is the claim that it would not work because, in existing 20mph areas, many people do not stick to that speed limit. The cabinet secretary made that point. However, that is an argument against the current ad hoc policy. It is a reason to support the bill, not to oppose it. Drivers are used to driving at 30mph. It is only by making 20mph the norm that we will change that culture and habit such that people become used to driving at 20mph. A national approach would help to ensure that that happens and that the benefits of 20mph zones are shared more equally among communities. The Faculty of Public Health in Scotland raised that issue in its submission. It stated:

“Allowing each local Council to pick and choose the areas that implement 20mph limits or zones risks widening health inequalities.”

The introduction of 20mph limits has been proven to deliver significant health benefits, from safer roads to reduced pollution to increased active travel. A postcode lottery should not determine whether people get those benefits. Only a new national default 20mph limit will deliver those benefits for all.

One of the committee’s recommendations was that it

“supports the aim of seeking to widen the implementation of 20mph zones in Scotland with the objective of reducing death and serious injuries on roads.”

In reply to a question that I asked the cabinet secretary during our evidence session with him, he said that 20mph limits should be introduced

“where there is good evidence that they should be introduced,”

but the reality is that that will not happen under the current system. Although councils may choose to introduce 20mph zones in their areas, many choose not to do so, even when there is clear demand for that and evidence in support of it. The piecemeal, ad hoc approach that is taken at the moment has not, will not and cannot deliver the long-term cultural change that is needed.

The Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland told the committee that, in some local authorities, there is a

“reluctance to roll out 20mph limits more widely.”—[Official Report, Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, 6 March 2019; c 37, 10.]

SCOTS also stated that local councils have made it clear that simply tweaking the TRO process to reduce the financial and administrative burden of introducing a new speed limit street by street—welcome though that may be—will not deliver the change that is needed. We need national action and national leadership. Agreeing to the general principles of the bill and allowing it to move beyond stage 1 would enable us to start to have the debate about what form that national action should take.

It would also be an opportunity to test the myths about the bill, including the claim that it would implement a one-size-fits-all approach across the country, even where 20mph speed limits would not be appropriate. That is simply not true. The bill would change the default speed limit for built-up areas and local authorities would still have the power to exempt roads from the default speed limit, just as they are able to introduce higher limits in some 30mph zones now.

The bill is no more a one-size-fits-all approach than the current policy of 30mph is a one-size-fits-all approach. What is being dismissed as a one-size-fits-all approach is actually a call for consistency to avoid confusion, to encourage long-term behavioural change and to ensure that the benefits of 20mph limits are felt equally across the country.

Those who claim that local authorities should have to do the work to deliver 20mph street by street—because that is what they want—ignore the fact that many local authorities support the bill as what it proposes would be less onerous and expensive than the current system. The City of Edinburgh Council told the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee that implementing the new speed limit in that way, as opposed to doing it independently and street by street, would have more than halved the cost.

Another myth is that the bill would increase speed limit enforcement problems. That is simply not true—there is no evidence to suggest that enforcement problems for 20mph zones are any different from the ones that we face in existing 30mph zones. That is an issue about police resources and priorities.

If the Government is truly convinced that the approach set out in the bill is not the best way to achieve the aim of moving towards a speed limit of 20mph in residential areas, it needs to come up with alternatives, because the current system is failing our communities. It needs to show the same leadership in Scotland as that shown in Wales, where the Welsh Government has set up a task and finish group to look at how to achieve its aim of implementing a default speed of 20mph. Transport for London is also rolling out 20mph across central London, and the mayor, Sadiq Khan, wants that expanded beyond the centre.

It is time for Scotland to catch up with other parts of the UK. My challenge to the Scottish Government today is for it to make clear that Scotland will show the ambition that other parts of the UK are showing; that when a child walks to school or to the play park, they will benefit from there being a lower speed limit on those roads; and that where they live should not determine whether they get those benefits. The Government should establish a task force, with a very clear aim of delivering 20mph in residential areas, and make clear that Scotland will become a safer place to live.


John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

I thank all my colleagues on the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee for their diligent attention to this matter. At the end of the day, we have come to different conclusions. I am disappointed about that, but I absolutely accept that views are held in good faith. My intervention on Edward Mountain, the convener of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, was not to question his role but to say that, although we all heard the same evidence, we drew different conclusions from it. Maybe it is worth considering why we drew different conclusions.

We are all shaped by our experience. Members who have had the misfortune to deal with a child casualty might have found that that altered their perception about the relative importance of road signs and put them in a different category. My word—any cursory check of the Official Report will show the inordinate and ridiculous length of time that we spent discussing road signs. Road signs are a factor, but the main issue is irresponsible driver behaviour. We know that speed is one of the main causes of casualties. In its briefing to us, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health very simply said:

“slower traffic makes for safer streets which means that fewer children are killed on Scottish roads.”

We all had that briefing; indeed, we have had a number of briefings.

In scrutinising the bill, people will have different views, but another issue is people having different priorities. Anyone analysing the language used in relation to this issue will see that it is shaped on a presumption that the motor car is king. A person walking anywhere who crosses the road at an uncontrolled crossing will find that the presumption is that the motor car is most important, with the right of way given to someone emerging from a junction for example.

I might have mentioned in the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee—although maybe I did so informally in private session—a great Walt Disney cartoon that epitomises a lot of the issues. The cartoon has a character called Mr Walker, who becomes Mr Driver. Mr Walker is a lovely, friendly dog, who walks everywhere and speaks to everyone. When he comes up in the world, Mr Walker gets a car and becomes Mr Driver. What a horrible piece of work he is! He shakes his fist out the window at everyone as he drives along.

Of course, not everyone reacts like that. However, first and foremost, we must consider human beings, and I would have hoped that the human beings who would be at the forefront of our considerations would be those involved in the 755 casualties and five deaths per year. Those are hugely important figures.

Another issue that is germane to the debate and that has peppered many of the discussions that we have had is that of central direction versus local autonomy. I am conscious that Government ministers in particular use that argument, and I absolutely understand why. We in the Green Party like local government, and we like local a lot. I just wonder whether, next week, when we discuss amendments to another piece of legislation, members will say that we should stick to the idea that central determination is inappropriate and that we need local decision making. I fear that that will not be the case, although of course we can take different decisions on different issues.

On enforcement, as a former police officer, I was bitterly disappointed by what I heard from Police Scotland. The approach that we heard about manifests itself in situations in which my constituents and other members’ constituents phone the police and the first thing that they are told is, “We’re very busy.” Well, we are all very busy but, if we tell someone that, we are saying that they are not a priority. Human beings are a priority, and we must direct resources to protect life and property. That is a key function.

The police said that they have a system for prioritising, which relates to deaths. I represent the Highlands, which is a largely rural region where there is not a village or small town that has not been blighted by deaths as a result of excessive speed on rural roads. However, if what shapes our priority is detecting offenders in 20mph areas, and we do not seek to detect them, that will skew the basis on which we formalise our priorities. That evidence was deeply disappointing, never mind the fact that some of it was contradictory.

Liam Kerr

I presume that the member recognises that, for whatever reason, the police have limited resources and limited time and therefore must make prioritisation decisions accordingly.

John Finnie

Absolutely. My priority—I imagine that it would be the public’s priority if we asked them—is the 755 casualties that could be prevented and the five lives that could be saved. As I said, irresponsible driver behaviour is a main factor. The cabinet secretary is entirely right that we can design out problems and that some roads are more amenable to 20mph zones. However, there are roads that are designed in that way, such as Easter Road, which I walk every other day, but where people go at excessive speeds. There must be enforcement of the existing arrangements.

On the idea that cost is a factor, everything is absolutely about priorities. My colleague Mark Ruskell mentioned a considerable number of organisations that support the bill. Are we really saying that the number of signs in a rural village is more important than taking steps to address the issue? We assess the risk and put in place steps to ameliorate that risk. The most obvious step that we can take is on speed, and everybody accepts that, including the road professionals and the police. The idea that we are not concentrating on addressing a situation by putting in place legislation that would result in five children’s lives being saved is deeply disappointing.


Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

No one could be against a bill that is designed to reduce death and serious injury on our roads, and who could be against measures that would increase child safety? On the face of it, the bill that is before us purports to be just such a bill. Indeed, when its author, Mark Ruskell, responded to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s report on it, he said that the report

“puts the motoring lobby ahead of child safety.”

His approach and response to the committee’s findings about the inadequacies of his bill seem to me to have been designed to try to deflect our criticism of his bill and pretend that some kind of “motoring lobby”, to use his words, has captured committee members. I am pleased that he did not repeat that ridiculous charge today, and I contrast his response with the measured response that we have just heard from my fellow committee member John Finnie.

Members of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee have given the bill a fair hearing. My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I want there to be fewer accidents and safer roads across the country. However, according to the evidence that I heard, the bill would deliver neither of those aims.

It is a myth that the bill would deliver a standard 20mph speed limit to replace the 30mph limits across the country—it would not. Despite the bill’s name, it is designed to reduce the speed limit only on C-class and unclassified roads. Many people in our rural communities want to reduce the speed limit to 20mph on our A-class and B-class roads that run through our villages, but the bill would not do that and, to be fair to Mark Ruskell, he does not pretend that it would.

The bill would force every single road and track in our villages that are covered by street lighting to have 20mph signs erected at the junctions where they meet the through-village roads. It would miss the road safety target spectacularly.

Mark Ruskell

Will the member give way?

Mike Rumbles


Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab)

It is his bill.

Mike Rumbles

Members have had their chance. We have had two speeches from the Greens already. They have made their points. Let me make the points from my perspective, and then I might take an intervention later.

The evidence from rural local authorities such as Scottish Borders Council—we have heard criticism of that council—repeatedly suggested that speed is not the major cause of death and serious injury in the areas that would be affected by the bill. Slow-moving vehicles reversing and the like were far more of a danger. Such councils were concerned about the need to spend scarce resources on safety measures on their rural 60mph roads, where deaths and serious injury are far too common. I can vouch for that in Aberdeenshire. The councils were concerned that the money that they would have to spend as a result of the bill would be taken away from their road safety focus.

Addressing the issue of money head on, the transport secretary, in a letter to our convener, said:

“the costs associated with this Bill have been significantly underestimated and if this Bill was passed would divert resources away from existing road safety and active travel activity, potentially undermining work that would be more effective at reducing casualties.”

When the committee said in its report that it

“is of the view that the estimated costs and savings associated with the Bill proposals are not robust”,

we were being polite. When I asked Mark Ruskell at a committee meeting how he estimated his costs in the financial memorandum that accompanies the bill, he said that he had looked at Angus Council and simply extrapolated from there. That is simply not good enough, and many of those who gave us evidence estimated that the costs of his bill would be many millions of pounds more than he estimated.

Alison Johnstone

Will the member give way?

Mike Rumbles

No. I have only six minutes.

The City of Edinburgh Council has achieved all that it wished to achieve with its 20mph zones under the current legislation. However, if the bill were passed, that council would need to spend another £1 million—[Interruption.] Members do not like hearing this, but I will say it anyway. The evidence that we received suggests that the council would need to spend another £1 million to take down 20mph repeater signs in order to comply with the law.

Mark Ruskell

Will the member take an intervention?

Mike Rumbles

It would be better if members listened.

Perversely, in my view, the City of Edinburgh Council is in favour of the bill because, as we heard, it thinks that, if the bill were passed, it would get that funding from the Scottish Government. What a waste of public money that would be: every local authority that has already pursued the introduction of 20mph zones would be faced with a bill for taking down their 20mph repeater signs.

Claudia Beamish

Will the member give way?

Mike Rumbles

If I had more time, I would love to take interventions.

I have heard the evidence. Many members in the chamber did not sit through all the evidence-taking sessions that we sat through in the committee. What convinced me that the bill is unnecessary was the evidence from the transport secretary, who told the committee that he already has the power to change speed limits through regulations. If he thought that that was the right thing to do, he would do it. He does not think that it is the right thing to do, and I agree with him. I will say that again: I agree with the transport secretary. For road safety, the bill would be counter-productive.

I gently say to Mark Ruskell that members of the committee have all listened carefully—I would like other people to listen carefully—to all the evidence that was presented to us. To use an advertising slogan, we found that the bill does not do what it says on the tin, and it should not be supported at decision time.

The Presiding Officer

That concludes the opening speeches and we turn to the open part of the debate.


Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I rise to speak as someone who signed in support of the proposed bill, but who, having heard the evidence, has come to a disappointing conclusion—it is as disappointing for me as it will be for others.

Let us start with the fundamental thesis, which is a matter on which we will undoubtedly agree. There is European Union research that says that a human-car collision at 20mph has a 10 per cent probability of fatality. At 30mph, the probability of fatality rises to 40 per cent, and at 50mph, the probability is 100 per cent. We can draw the line on a chart: increasing speed in a collision causes deaths.

Those figures are for an adult being hit by a vehicle. I do not have equivalent figures for a child being hit by a vehicle. However, we should not think for a second that the effects would be substantially less severe. I think that we have a shared view—I am sure that Mike Rumbles would agree with this—that speed kills. The question is not so much whether there is a problem waiting to be solved and to which we should turn our attention as how we should solve that problem.

I have some numbers from other research. A 1 per cent increase in speed results in a 4 per cent increase in fatal accidents. The relationship between speed and the outcome of accidents is clear and unambiguous. The work of the committee absolutely recognised that.

We must be careful about what the bill does. There is a danger that we mislead ourselves on that. I confess that I have not looked at the detail of what the Welsh are proposing to do. I heard Mark Ruskell—whose every effort on the bill I utterly commend, without reservation—say that the Welsh are changing the national speed limit. However, the bill before us does not do that—it addresses only restricted roads.

Despite previously having been transport minister, I had never heard of restricted roads or knew what they were—it was not a distinction of which I was aware. Mike Rumbles referred to a restricted road as being a road that is not an A road or a B road and has lampposts no more than 185m apart. That properly covers most of the roads in most of our towns and villages where pedestrians, and young pedestrians in particular, are likely to be found.

John Finnie

I am very grateful to the member for taking a brief intervention. Given what he has just said, does he agree that it is astonishing that people, including the cabinet secretary, say that they do not know the total length of such roads?

Stewart Stevenson

Paragraph 140 of the committee’s report notes that the committee heard that

“21 per cent of local authorities have ... identified the roads that they would wish to switch to a 20mph limit and those on which they would retain a 30mph limit. Another 29 per cent say that they have the asset data to allow roads to be identified.”—[Official Report, Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, 6 March 2019; c34.]

There is certainly a lot of ignorance out there about the state of our roads and I accept that that is a driver to do something about it. That is unambiguous. It is disappointing that the percentages are as low as reported at paragraph 140 of the committee report, because ignorance is not a good basis for policy making and action on the ground. I congratulate urban areas, such as Edinburgh, that have invested the time and effort in making the difference.

It is worth reminding ourselves of the evidence we heard that the introduction of a 20mph zone where the limit had previously been 30mph appears to result in only a 1mph reduction in average speeds. However, averages are not the whole story. I have to say that the real problem is what those who break the law do on a 20mph road compared to a 30mph road. I do not think that we took evidence that answered that question, but we probably instinctively believe—I instinctively believe—that someone who is going to break the law will break the law anyway. We should not therefore simply put the question of enforcement to one side.

Jamie Greene

I am listening with careful interest to my committee colleague. He started off by saying that he was a proposer and a proponent of the concept behind the bill. I am interested to learn what was the primary thing that made him change his mind and take the position that he now takes. It would be helpful to know that.

Stewart Stevenson

I was just about to come to that. It is a perfectly proper question that I should be asked, given my starting and ending points in the debate. It is also worth saying, in the interests of balance, that political colleagues who will speak from the SNP benches will give different views of the subject.

Ultimately, I was driven by the evidence to the conclusion that the bill is not the most straightforward way of achieving the objectives that it sets for itself. It might be easier to do that by changing the speed limit.

First, many villages have streets that do not have street lighting so, strictly speaking, they are not caught by the restricted road requirement. Mr Chapman and I could probably identify one or two.

Mark Ruskell

Will the member give way?

Stewart Stevenson


The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani)

The member is in his final minute.

Stewart Stevenson

I am sorry; I wanted to be helpful to Mr Ruskell.

Equally, many A or B roads go through many towns or villages and it would be appropriate to consider them for a 20mph limit.

The bill is a worthy attempt to address the issue, but it falls short in terms of capability of implementation and cost of implementation. I went through a little village close to me recently, and I counted that it would need 80 signs.

We must not take the pressure off the Government and the cabinet secretary to find a way forward, but I am not persuaded by the evidence that the bill is the way forward. I say that with grave disappointment, because I support the member’s objectives.


Liam Kerr (North East Scotland) (Con)

I am pleased to be given the opportunity to speak today, not as a committee member, but as an advanced driver of 26 years who used to put in around 40,000 road miles a year through most UK towns and cities. I am also a commuting, road and racing cyclist who believes strongly in active travel and the need to get more people cycling, particularly on urban roads.

I say that at the outset, because I want to recognise the work that Mark Ruskell has put into the bill. I believe that he is asking the right questions. He is seeking practical measures that could improve air quality, encourage active travel, reduce pollution and reduce accidents. That is the right thing to do, but I do not believe that the bill will achieve it.

For example, if everybody was driving at 20mph then of course any accidents—which will still happen—would be less serious than they would be at greater speeds. However, despite the member’s response to my earlier intervention, I know that that will not happen. I saw the committee’s conclusion that compliance with 20mph limits is poor, and that supports evidence from Transport Research Laboratory research several years ago that found that 20mph limits reduced average speed by 0.9mph. The first area to introduce a blanket 20mph limit was Islington, and it cut the speed of 85 per cent of traffic—not all of it—by 1mph on average. The evidence suggests that a mandatory 20mph limit would not significantly reduce speed, and I am not convinced that it is right to mandate a cost of £10 million on to our local authorities for a possible return of 1mph.

Mark Ruskell

It would be £10 million across the whole of Scotland. There has been a lot of confusion about this in the committee, so does the member not recognise that an average speed is an average, and that there has been a much greater reduction in speed, particularly on higher speed roads, when the 20mph limit has been introduced? We might be looking at a reduction of 8, 9 or 10mph on those higher speed roads; that is what the evidence has shown.

Liam Kerr

I do not accept that that will happen across the board. I point the member to what Stewart Stevenson said about average speed. His point was well made. When we average out the speeds, we get a certain answer, but we need to understand what happens when people do not comply. I will come back to that point shortly, if I may.

I am not convinced that a 20mph limit would impact materially on safety. There is a Department for Transport study that suggests that. Ironically, a study from York suggests that 20mph limits could increase rather than reduce the risks, because they lull pedestrians into a false sense of security. That understanding of behaviour is important, as it applies equally to drivers. If the need for people to consciously drive is removed, their attention is reduced. If an arbitrary limit is imposed on a straight and clear urban artery with minimal traffic on a sunny day, drivers will glaze over, or they will simply ignore it, as happens now with blanket prohibitions that take no account of prevailing conditions.

Mark Ruskell

It is just incredible that Liam Kerr has not engaged with the evidence. The four-year Department for Transport report found no evidence for the claims that he is making.

Liam Kerr

I absolutely do engage with the evidence, and I speak as a driver. The problem is that we cannot divorce the bill from the reality of what is going on outside and what will happen.

Research suggests that drivers use clues from the environment around them to judge appropriate speeds. Good drivers know that a limit is just that: it is a limit, not a target. As a practical solution, we should ensure that drivers are trained to judge the appropriate speed and not delegate responsibility to an arbitrary yet mandated limit. Where limits do not match the environment or prevailing conditions, uncertainty and confusion are generated, which distract from appropriate decision making. On the contrary, a speed limit that matches the road environment and promotes self-compliance and confidence in the system removes the need for enforcement.

Would the limit be enforced? No. I found Chief Superintendent Carle’s evidence to the committee persuasive. He said that he would target limited resources to where the majority of casualties take place.

I think that the committee heard that mobile camera units are not even calibrated for 20mph.

Stewart Stevenson

Will the member take an intervention?

Liam Kerr

I am very short on time.

Stewart Stevenson

It is information that Liam Kerr needs. That was initially said to the committee and subsequently corrected.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I can allow Liam Kerr some extra time.

Liam Kerr

I am very grateful to Stewart Stevenson.

John Finnie is right. As he said, what causes casualties is irresponsible driver behaviour. I go back to what Stewart Stevenson said. A speed limit will be breached by irresponsible drivers, whatever happens.

I simply do not believe that there would be an increase in the safety of cyclists. Even if a 20mph limit were put on the Great Western Road in Aberdeen, my wife and kid would still not be on it. If the £10 million that the committee heard about was spent on segregated bike lanes, we would then start to talk.

The solution—the way to increase road safety and remove decisions on adherence to road laws, and the solution to the issue of enforcement—is targeted 20mph zones that are enforced by appropriate measures such as speed bumps and road designs that are determined by those who know a community’s roads best, who are the people who live in the community, key stakeholders and the local authority. The measures should be restricted to locations in which, and times when, the need for a 20mph zone is obvious.

Any 20mph zone must be self-enforcing by ensuring that the signposting, features and traffic-calming measures make sense to the road users. Instead of imposing restrictions on all drivers to catch the careless, the uncaring or the irresponsible, segregated design features for enhanced pedestrian and cycling safety should be built in.

The bill’s fundamental premise of a blanket 20mph limit would fail to achieve its stated aims, and there are better ways to achieve behaviour change. For that reason, I will not support the principles of the bill at decision time.


John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

I am very pleased to speak in this debate, having been on the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee as we took evidence from Mark Ruskell, the Government and many others.

The first thing that I want to stress is that, as other members have said, there was widespread agreement that 20mph is better than 30mph in residential areas. It is clear that a child or an elderly person who is hit by a vehicle going at 20mph will be much less seriously hurt than they would be if the vehicle was going at 30mph. The issue is particularly important to me, as there are more accidents in deprived areas, such as parts of my constituency.

The Glasgow Centre for Population Health, which is based in Bridgeton in my constituency, argues that there would be

“a significant positive health impact, specifically in reducing the number and severity of road traffic casualties.”

It also says, with regard to the south of central Edinburgh and the permanent scheme in Bristol, that

“significant reductions in road traffic casualties and accidents are potentially possible”

and that

“the introduction of 20mph limits in South Central Edinburgh and Bristol led to reductions in average speed, and in the case of Bristol significant casualty reductions”.

The disagreement on the committee involved not where we want to get to but how to get there. Edinburgh already has 80 per cent of its roads at 20mph so, clearly, that can be done under the present system. However, Edinburgh said that the bill would be helpful as it would save other councils from having to go down the lengthy and expensive route that it had to go down.

Glasgow City Council is supporting the bill. It sees it as providing a simpler and less expensive way of achieving a wider roll-out of 20mph zones. There is a strong argument that having a national approach would provide consistency and is more likely to change public perception. It is in people’s minds now that 30mph is the norm. We need to change that thinking so that 20mph becomes the norm.

I accept that there are arguments against the bill, including, for example, the belief that there would be some uncertainty about which roads are restricted and which are not. Personally, I question whether that uncertainty really affects a huge number of roads. Another argument against the bill involves questions over the robustness of the financial memorandum. However, frankly, having been in this place for about eight years, I think that you could say that about most financial memorandums. Again, I do not think that that is a killer point against the bill.

The potential multiplication of road signs is more of a real challenge. If every A and B road were to remain at 30mph while every restricted road were to be 20mph, it would mean that there would be speed signs on virtually every corner. However, again, the counterargument to that is that Edinburgh has avoided that, to some extent, by making wider areas 20mph—it is not only the restricted roads that are 20mph but, in fact, part of the A1, too. Therefore, councils would still have the power to reduce A and B roads to 20mph, thus giving more of a zonal approach and building on the bill’s focus on the exact classification of certain roads.

On the subject of signage and cost, one big uncertainty has been around repeater signs. Currently, repeater signs are not allowed in a 30mph zone, although they are required for 20mph and 40mph sections in cities. If the bill went through, and the rules were not changed, it would be 20mph repeater signs that were not allowed, while 30mph and 40mph repeater signs would be required. The financial memorandum gives a cost of between £1 million and £2 million for removing existing 20mph repeater signs.

There was quite a lot of agreement on the committee that that system perhaps needs to be reviewed. I think that the cabinet secretary said that he would be prepared to do that. There are certain roads in my constituency, such as Clyde Gateway, a relatively new dual carriageway that members might know, that, by Liam Kerr’s argument, should be 40mph roads. Clyde Gateway feels like a 40mph road, but it is a 30mph road. There are complaints about speeding on it, but the council is not allowed to put up repeater signs. There is an issue there, quite apart from the bill.

On the question of the environmental impact of the bill, the jury is still out. We heard evidence that slowing traffic down could cause some engines to perform less efficiently, whereas we also heard evidence that some engines perform well at lower speeds and that, if traffic flow becomes smoother, that would be positive, too. The Glasgow Centre for Population Health said:

“The health impacts on air pollution of this type of speed limit reduction has not been estimated due to data constraints”.

Enforcement is another key issue. There appeared to be some misreporting in the media of evidence that we received. The police seem clear that their emphasis should be on faster roads outside towns where there is a 60mph limit and on which any crash is more likely to lead to deaths. So, already there may be a question over whether more emphasis should be placed on tackling speeding in residential areas, even if the speed limit stays at 30mph. I do not think that the issue of the speed limit being 20mph or 30mph affects the argument.

One slightly ironic angle to the bill is that we often think of the Greens as the party of localism and decentralisation but, in this case, they appear to be the party of centralisation while the Government is arguing for local authority responsibility to remain unchanged.

In conclusion, I was one of the three who voted to support the bill as the committee prepared its report. I am still not persuaded to oppose the bill, despite strong Government arguments against it. As I have said, I recognise that there are arguments on both sides, and that there is broad agreement that we should be moving towards a wider use of 20mph limits. Therefore, I will be abstaining at decision time today, which will probably keep few people entirely happy. Hopefully, as things progress over time, we will see something else happening.


Daniel Johnson (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)

I thank Mark Ruskell for introducing the bill and for doing the hard and diligent work that has gone into it. I know that it is no mean feat to introduce a member’s bill, as I am attempting to do the same thing. It is undoubtedly a worthy and important issue, but, unfortunately, it looks to be one that will not prevail today. We are going to lose the opportunity for Scotland to be, once again, at the forefront of change. At the end of the day, we will return to the issue but, I fear, as a laggard. That is the reality.

It is an important issue. I say that as much as the MSP for Edinburgh Southern, where the initial trial in Edinburgh took place, as I say it as a parent and an Edinburgh resident. It is unequivocal that, if we reduce traffic speeds, we will save people from injuries and we will save lives. Approximately 900 children were injured on our roads in 2017, and the reality is that 20mph limits make children seven times less likely to be injured if they are hit. Indeed, where 20mph limits have been introduced, such as in Hull and in London, we have seen casualty numbers drop by as much as half. That change is worth having and worth making the effort for. It is not going to be easy, and there will be costs, but if introducing 20mph limits saves lives, and if it saves people from injuries, it is worth doing. The decision that members have to contemplate at decision time is whether those injuries are worth preventing and whether those lives are worth saving. That is why I think that the bill is important.

My experience in Edinburgh is that the 20mph limit is achievable. I have had to take a small amount of leadership on it and have personally defended the 20mph limit policy, which was introduced by the previous Labour and Scottish National Party coalition at the City of Edinburgh Council. People said that it was unnecessary and inconvenient and that they do not like driving at 20mph. My favourite comment was someone saying, “My car doesn’t go at 20mph.” All cars go at 20mph. I had to stop myself giving people driving instructions—I did not go that far.

The 20mph limit is worth having and, indeed, it is enforced. I have been out with the local police as they have stopped cars that were going in excess of 20mph just one road over from the one in which I live. In Edinburgh, the experience has been that the average speed is down and local support for the initiative is up. We have already seen a drop in the number of casualties as a result, which is something that the whole of Scotland should enjoy.

My personal experience as a driver is that my car is more fuel efficient since the introduction of the limit—I have seen it on the trip computer. Frankly, I find driving calmer, because traffic speeds are down. I believe that, above all else, our roads in Edinburgh are a better place for all road users, whether they are walking, cycling or driving.

I believe that the bill is a good proposal. It is notable that the City of Edinburgh Council said that the costs that it incurred when it introduced a 20mph limit would have been halved if it had done so under the proposed system. Yes, there are costs, and perhaps the financial memorandum is not 100 per cent accurate—as John Mason pointed out, which financial memorandums are?—but the bill would make the measure cheaper to introduce.

There is a degree of inconsistency in some of the arguments that have been made against the bill. On the one hand, we have heard arguments about compliance, and, on the other hand, we have heard arguments against taking a one-size-fits-all approach. Surely, a consistent approach to the application of our road rules would drive up adherence to them. Are people really arguing that we should have localised highway codes in different towns and villages? That is nonsense. We have a single highway code on our roads because having a single, consistent set of rules is how we make sure that people follow them, as they know what the expectations are.

In 1861, when the first speed limit was introduced, the limit was 10mph. We do not hear people arguing for that limit now, nor do they argue for the red flag bearer who had to precede the car as it was driven down the road. Such things are a matter of habit and culture, and habits and culture can be changed. Indeed, it is our responsibility to seek to change habits and culture when we believe that there would be benefits in doing so, and I believe that this is one of those situations.

Greater consistency would make enforcement easier, and, if having the limit is a priority, we will enforce it. The matter is difficult for police. If 700 officers are removed from local divisions, how do we expect them to enforce even the existing speed limits, let alone the new 20mph ones? However, if it was a priority, we would make it happen. Frankly, it comes down to leadership.

I understand that there are mixed views. When it comes to change, there are always cautious voices. People can be defensive about how they use their cars to go about their local communities, but there is a need for change and it is incumbent on us to stand up and make the arguments for that change. The proposal would make people safer and would save lives. For those reasons, I urge all members to think of their consciences and vote in favour of the bill at decision time.


Clare Adamson (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)

I thank Mark Ruskell for bringing this important issue to the fore in his member’s bill. I also thank the members of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee for their diligence and deliberations as they went through the stage 1 proceedings. As a former North Lanarkshire councillor and a member of the Scottish Accident Prevention Council, and as the convener of the cross-party group on accident prevention and safety awareness, I am and will continue to be a full supporter of appropriate 20mph limits in Scotland. I was keen to be a signatory to the proposed bill when Mark Ruskell first brought it to our attention. I have listened to the debate and I have read the evidence and the stage 1 report. I accept that the bill is unlikely to progress today, but I will comment on a number of key areas.

In front of me, I have notice of North Lanarkshire Council’s award-winning entry in the Prince Michael international road safety awards. The entry—“North Lanarkshire – 20’s Plenty: highway engineering improvement, 2005”—explains that

“North Lanarkshire believes that speed reduction will result in casualty reduction. It introduced a 20mph speed limit in every residential area in North Lanarkshire in 2001-2 at a cost of £360,000. North Lanarkshire Council is still the only authority to have introduced the advisory 20mph measures throughout its full area. As part of an integrated programme of public education the 20’s plenty campaign increased public acceptability of this speed reduction measure.”

I also have the statistics for road traffic accidents from 1995 to 2017. In the year following the introduction of that 20mph speed limit, North Lanarkshire had its biggest percentage reduction in the number of road traffic accidents on record. In that time, there was a 15 per cent reduction and there were 144 fewer road traffic accidents. In line with other road traffic accident statistics across Scotland, that figure has continued to improve, and I commend the Government for the work that it has done to encourage safer roads. Those statistics brought home to me the impact that twenty’s plenty can have in a community. Although it was a local decision that was made for local reasons, such an approach could benefit the whole of Scotland.

We are not supposed to use props, but I have with me the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents publication “Scotland’s Big Book of Accident Prevention”. I will read out a couple of facts from the book. We have talked a lot today about money and the cost of the change, so the first fact is that,

“In Scotland, accidents cost society more than £12.4 billion per annum, of which A&E attendances cost the NHS £1.48 billion”.

As well as looking at the cost of a road accident or fatality in Scotland, the book looks at the wider societal costs such as the loss of income, the loss to the economy and what might happen when someone has a debilitating injury that leads to intervention for the rest of their life.

The second fact is that

“Children of parents who have never worked or are long-term unemployed are 20 times more likely to die as pedestrians than children of parents in higher managerial or professional occupations”.

That, for me, is a social justice issue. Reducing the number of accidents and making our society safer for children are as much about tackling poverty and societal inequality as, for example, the use of the pupil equity fund in schools and other interventions such as those that we are putting in place for the early years. This is absolutely crucial.

As has been mentioned, we want Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up in. That being the case, we need to take accident prevention more seriously. As I have said in the chamber on several occasions over the past few weeks, I am delighted that the Government is looking to embed in our legislation the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has a specific section on accident prevention. Accident prevention will continue to be a social justice issue, and we cannot ignore it.

It is unlikely that the bill will go forward today, but I would point out that, although North Lanarkshire Council introduced its twenty’s plenty initiative in 2001, which means that it has been running for nearly the life of this Parliament, it is clear that some local authorities are still dragging their heels on this. Today, I am putting my faith in the Government, our colleagues in COSLA and everyone who has supported the principle of 20mph zones to work with those councils and encourage them to look at what they can do in their local areas to make real progress on the issue. We have had warm words for far too long now; it is time for this to get done.

Although this is not just about signage, among the many things that are coming our way as part of the fourth industrial revolution are black-box technology and modified signs that have the ability to report back on what is happening. At one point, there was going to be a digital map of Scotland that would show all our streets and the speed limit in each area, which could have been linked in to the whole system. That sort of thing would not only help with police enforcement; our insurance companies would surely be interested in it, too.


Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab)

Yesterday, I went outside Parliament to meet demonstrators from across the country who understand the significance of the bill. Friends of the Earth Scotland, Cycling UK, pedal on Parliament, Spokes Lothian, GoBike and the twenty’s plenty campaign joined forces to organise the demonstration after the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee failed to recommend that the bill be agreed to at stage 1 and claimed that a one-size-fits-all approach was not appropriate. Dissenting MSPs John Finnie, Colin Smyth and John Mason rejected the conclusion, pointing out that the current patchwork of different speed limits was confusing to motorists. Moreover, in the debate, Daniel Johnson has said that, having seen the effects of a 20mph speed limit in his constituency, he believes that it is achievable and something that all of Scotland should enjoy.

Why, then, can neither the Scottish Government transport secretary nor indeed the majority of the REC Committee grasp the importance of a change that, as Mark Ruskell pointed out earlier, so many councils are in support of? I sat in on two of the committee’s evidence-taking sessions, and found the evidence in favour of Mr Ruskell’s bill to be compelling. The consistency of approach would surely be similar for a default 20mph speed limit as for a 30mph default. This is about residential, living streets and, as Colin Smyth said, only a national default speed limit will bring benefits to all. I find it sad that there were not more MSPs at yesterday’s demonstration to listen to what was being said and to see 60 demonstrators place outside our Parliament a chair for every life that could have been saved. As they said, each chair represented a life interrupted. For that reason alone, we as a Parliament should support the bill at stage 1.

Sally Hinchcliffe of the pedal on Parliament campaign, and a resident of Dumfries, has stated that the bill would succeed in

“eliminating the postcode lottery of safer streets for children walking or cycling.”

I agree. As a city cyclist myself, I am keenly aware of the speed of cars, vans and lorries, and the evidence of a default 20mph speed limit clearly shows that it would encourage more citizens to take up active travel options such as walking or cycling. It is, frankly, a no-brainer.

A shift to active travel would, of course, mean fewer vehicles on our roads and, as John Finnie said, quoting the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health,

“slower traffic makes for safer streets”.

Is the car still king? Does the desire of motorists to go that bit faster count for more than the increased risk of a 30mph limit causing more serious injury and death to vulnerable road users? Surely not.

What of air quality? It is frankly shameful that Scotland has been in contravention of the EU air pollution standards. Air pollution causes about 2,500 early deaths a year in Scotland. It is not only the deaths that we should consider, but the effect of air pollution on vulnerable people with chronic lung conditions. There is increasing evidence about the effect of air pollution on children’s health and now there is research into cancer in children and mental health in children in relation to air pollution. There is also evidence about the contribution of air pollution to the development of Alzheimer’s in older people. Surely any measure that is proven to lower air pollution should be given serious further consideration and not be rejected at stage 1?

There is also evidence that more deprived communities are more affected by road traffic accidents. Analysis by Sustrans found that children in Scotland’s poorest areas are nearly three times more likely to be injured by road traffic. Surely it cannot be right that we fail to address that when we have the opportunity?

It is clear that a 20mph limit around our schools is not enough because many injuries, as I have heard in the committee meetings, occur in the residential streets beyond those limits.

Daniel Johnson stressed that the habits and culture of drivers can be changed and these concerns, as Colin Smyth said, are not restricted to our cities—large villages and small towns are impacted by the range of issues that Mark Ruskell’s bill would contribute to addressing.

Tony Hancock—not the Tony Hancock, but another Tony Hancock, who is vice-chair of the Royal Burgh of Lochmaben and District Community Council—told me recently:

“We have been trying to get a 20mph speed restriction in Lochmaben High Street for the past 10 years. Speed monitoring by the Council has shown that up to 800 vehicles per day are exceeding the 30mph speed limit. Lochmaben has an unusually wide High Street and an ageing population for whom crossing the road can be hazardous.”

Stewart Stevenson

Will the member take an intervention?

Claudia Beamish

I do not think that I have time—I am sorry. I want to make a few points in summing up.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I can allow you the time.

Stewart Stevenson

Can the member confirm that the road through Lochmaben is an A road and therefore would not be covered by the bill?

Claudia Beamish

That is not the case for all the roads in Lochmaben, by any means.

Tony Hancock pointed out, as I said, that Lochmaben has an unusually wide high street and there is a primary school nearby that is accessed from the high street. The point that I am making—[Interruption.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Excuse me, Ms Beamish. I ask Mr Rumbles and Mr Stevenson to stop yelling at each other along their row of chairs. Thank you.

Claudia Beamish

It is important to understand that they also want the 20mph limit to apply in other parts of Lochmaben, including where the primary school is. Tony Hancock has asked me to vote for the bill, which I certainly will. Lochmaben and other villages can rely on the support of Scottish Labour for Mark’s bill.

As Friends of the Earth Scotland reminds us, the measures in the bill would also contribute to tackling the climate emergency by tackling transport emissions. That is also an important issue.

Recently, we have heard from the City of London Corporation that it will reduce the speed limit in the Square Mile to 15mph, subject to Government approval. The proposal follows a notable reduction in deaths and serious injuries on the roads in the region after the 20mph limit was introduced. That reduction was seen as a good reason to bring the limit down further. The corporation states that it will

“make the streets more attractive places to walk, cycle and spend time”.

How depressing that we appear to be falling behind and that we are having to fall back on a default task force—if the minister agrees to it—and some vague and frankly rather weak waffle from the minister. London has been consulting on a default speed limit of 20mph, as has Wales. Europe—let us face it—already has a default speed limit of 30km per hour, which is well below our 30mph.

This bill would make a significant contribution to a whole range of issues, including making roads and residential streets safer and more agreeable. Scottish Labour says, let us support Mark Ruskell’s bill, even at this late stage. We need national action and national leadership.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I remind members to always refer to fellow members using their full names, please.


Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

I thank the committee clerks for helping us to draft the report and I thank all those who provided evidence to the committee. Of course, I also thank Mark Ruskell for introducing the bill.

We have had a good debate and I want to start by saying that safer roads are obviously something that we all support, both in the committee and right across Parliament. That has never been in question.

We want everyone to be as safe as possible when they get in their car, jump on their bike or walk to school or work. That is why the committee supported the aim of widening the implementation of 20mph zones where that is appropriate, with the objectives of reducing deaths and serious injuries on our roads and encouraging more people to cycle and walk. However, the committee also had to decide whether it agreed with the bill’s proposal to introduce a default 20mph speed limit on all restricted roads, and we could not accept that proposal.

The committee made the bold but right decision to vote against the bill, because the evidence to support it is not there, as the committee’s report clearly reflects. It became obvious throughout our productive and informative evidence sessions that a blanket one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate for Scotland. In that evidence and in the debate, we have heard that a simple 20mph speed limit has a limited impact on speeds on the ground. Design features on roads are equally important or even more important in lowering speeds. We need self-enforcing limits.

The committee heard that Police Scotland does not monitor or prioritise the enforcing of 20mph limits, so real-time speeds are only about 1mph lower in areas with 20mph limits. That is not a significant reduction.

John Finnie

I know that the committee heard conflicting evidence about speeds, but does Peter Chapman acknowledge that the evidence was unequivocal about the implications of a child being hit by a vehicle and that any potential to reduce speeds at impact, however modestly, is welcome?

Peter Chapman

I agree and have said that that is welcome, but we need to reduce the speed limit in the right places. My problem is that the bill proposes a 20mph limit across Scotland, which I do not agree with.

I agree with Mike Rumbles that where resources are limited—let us be honest that resources are always limited—the bill would divert resources from other measures that could have a far bigger impact on road safety. That is relevant in rural areas such as my part of Aberdeenshire.

Some say that the bill would be good for air quality but, as John Mason said, the committee heard evidence that the effect would be limited—some said that air quality would be slightly better and others said that it would be slightly worse. That was inconclusive, so I disagree with Claudia Beamish that the bill would greatly improve air quality.

The committee agreed that the existing legislative processes that enable local authorities to implement 20mph speed limits should be more straightforward and easier to implement. We therefore welcome the Scottish Government’s current exercise to consider ways of achieving that. I ask the cabinet secretary to comment in closing on how that work is progressing.

The best way to implement speed limit changes is case by case. Local authorities should be able to decide on the areas where a 20mph limit is appropriate. We should let councillors decide that rather than be dictated to from above. It has been abundantly clear for many years and is clear to me as an Aberdeenshire MSP that, in my part of the world, by far the most accidents that cause fatalities or serious injuries happen on rural roads.

A prime example comes from the A947 from Aberdeen to Banff, where the rate of serious and fatal accidents is 60 per cent higher than the national average. The A952 from Ellon to Fraserburgh and the A90 from Aberdeen to Peterhead have similar rates that are horrendously bad. The sad fact is that serious accidents occur on those roads almost every week.

I want investment in infrastructure and in police time and resources for such roads. The message from Scottish Borders Council was very much the same—it said that the bill would have a detrimental financial impact and would be unlikely to have any impact on accidents in that council’s largely rural area. I therefore disagree with Colin Smyth. As far as this argument is concerned, there is a difference between rural and urban areas.

During our evidence sessions, the financial impact of implementing a blanket 20mph limit was unclear, and we consider that the financial memorandum is not robust.

It is clear that, although there is merit in what the bill is trying to achieve, its general principle of a one-size-fits-all, top-down approach is not the way forward, and I will not support the bill.


Michael Matheson

I have listened carefully to members’ speeches this afternoon, and I am grateful to all those who have contributed on this important issue. I reiterate my recognition of the work that has been undertaken by Mark Ruskell, and of the debate that it has stimulated on 20mph zones and the 20mph limit.

I set out two important issues in my opening remarks. One was whether 20mph zones and limits are the right thing to do in the right place. Yes, they are. Is what is set out in the bill the right way to go about that? I do not believe that it is.

John Mason summed up the debate very well when he stated that it is not so much about where we want to get to as it is about how we want to get there. That is a particularly important point. It is also important, from my perspective, to put on the record that some of us not agreeing with the proposals that are set out in the bill should in no way be interpreted as our not caring about the safety of children, about speeding on our streets or about safety on our roads. Nothing could be further from the truth. In particular, Mark Ruskell suggested in his speech that, if we are not supporting his bill, we are in some way doing nothing about the issue. Again, that is factually incorrect: I am afraid that it is not a reflection of what is happening.

Alison Johnstone

The latest Transport Scotland statistics tell us that serious accidents involving children walking and cycling have increased, that adult pedestrian deaths have increased, and that there has been a marked increase in the number of adult cyclists involved in serious accidents. Things are going in the wrong direction.

What I am trying to understand is this. The cabinet secretary’s investment in walking and cycling is really pitiful, at 3 per cent of a huge budget, he has never suggested that he is interested in presumed liability, and he does not like my colleague’s proposal. Is he therefore suggesting that he will just leave things to chance? What is he going to do?

Michael Matheson

That type of contribution does not take the debate forward as we try to have a serious and rational discussion about the best way to go about things. I have set out that we have “Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to 2020”, through which we are taking forward a suite of measures to tackle road safety issues. We will continue to pursue that approach with the funding that we are investing.

As an aside, on the issue of the “pitiful” amount that we are putting into active travel, I do not think that a doubling of the budget from £39 million to some £80 million reflects a Government that is not committed to the agenda.

I take exception when it is suggested that because I do not support the approach that is set out in the bill, I do not care about my children’s safety when they walk to school, as anyone in the chamber would. I do care about it—but I want to ensure that we take appropriate measures to address such things.

It is also important that we challenge ourselves to think about whether there are other measures that we can pursue to address compliance and greater use of 20mph zones in the right locations.

As Edward Mountain said in his speech, the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee recommends that the Government consider taking forward and exploring a number of things. One concerns traffic regulation orders and how they operate, at present. It has been highlighted by local authorities that they act as an inhibitor or barrier to their pursuing 20mph zones in their areas. That is for a variety of reasons, including the onerous nature of the consultation exercise that has to be undertaken, and the associated costs, which are largely to do with the advertisements that must be placed in the local press to make the public aware of the matter.

We have been consulting local authorities—the survey results have been returned to us and are currently being analysed—to ascertain what action we can take to remove the inhibitors that have been identified, and to reduce the timeframe and make the system much more flexible and amenable for local authorities to use, when they think that it is appropriate to do so.

Jamie Greene

I appreciate the update from the Government on improving the TRO process.

Another issue that has come up a lot in the debate is the need to shift behaviour and culture in respect of how we drive around our towns and cities. What will the Government do to educate people so that they make the behavioural changes that are needed? This is not just about legislative and technical processes.

Michael Matheson

That is a key part of the road safety framework, which runs until next year and must be refreshed, so that we target resources at driver education programmes and other support, such as school initiatives to promote road safety and cycling safety initiatives. A variety of measures contribute to tackling the issue, and the framework sets out a range of measures.

I heard the statistics that Alison Johnstone mentioned. We should never think that even one death on our roads is acceptable. Our aspiration, which is in the framework, is for there to be no deaths and injuries on our roads. That is, and will remain, our focus as we seek to address the matter.

I talked about action that we are taking. There is extensive guidance and information in place for local authorities on developing 20mph zones. To encourage local authorities to do that, we are engaging with COSLA to consider how we can add to that guidance and encourage a much more strategic approach to introduction of 20mph zones in urban areas.

Clare Adamson described very well how such an approach can be taken when she talked about the work that North Lanarkshire Council undertook in 2001 on the twenty’s plenty initiative. The council wanted to make the issue a priority and applied the approach consistently on the roads in its area on which it thought a 20mph limit was most appropriate. There is nothing to stop other local authorities doing that.

That is why, through our work with COSLA, I am determined to ensure that local authorities drive forward the approach much more consistently and identify the residential areas in which 20mph limits could deliver the benefits that we know they can deliver, where it is right to do so.

The most comprehensive study into a sign-only 20mph approach was undertaken by the Department for Transport and published in November last year. It is worth recognising that that three-year study found that sign-only 20mph speed limits have little impact on actual vehicle speed. We cannot ignore that evidence.

If we are to tackle the issue, we have to be informed by evidence and we have to act in a way that delivers the change that people will expect from a change in the speed limit. If we do not do that, we will undermine the integrity of the speed limit process. As local authorities highlighted in evidence to the committee, if we do not get the speed limit process right, we bring it into disrepute. We should not think that a sign-only 20mph limit will address the issue.

I am conscious of the time. This is a complex issue, on which there are many strongly held views in the chamber. Every member shares an interest in making our communities safer—for ourselves and for our children. No one in the chamber holds the moral high ground on that.

The Government will continue to do everything it can to address road safety. We happen not to believe that the bill is the best way to go about doing that, but we will continue to take forward measures that we think will make a difference, and will make our communities safer for everyone who lives in Scotland.


Mark Ruskell

In closing the debate, it would be remiss of me not to thank the many people who have given me assistance in bringing the bill to stage 1. In particular, I would like to thank the non-Government bills unit, the Parliament’s legal team, my researcher, Malachy Clarke, and the many members with whom I have had constructive conversations over the past two years, particularly John Mason, John Finnie and Claudia Beamish. I would also like to thank the 25 members who, by signing the original bill proposal, enabled the bill to get to this point, and the members and clerks of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, which scrutinised the bill. In addition, I thank the many members who have offered many kind words to me this afternoon. I appreciate that.

Turning to the contributions, I think that one of the most disappointing things that I have heard in the debate is the myth that the bill is some kind of top-down, blanket, one-size-fits-all approach. It is not. That is a fundamental misunderstanding of what the bill is about. It is very disappointing to hear that; it is particularly disappointing to hear it from Mr Rumbles, in whose office over the past two years I have explained to him what the bill is about. I am sorry, but I draw the conclusion that Mr Rumbles is an advocate for the motoring lobby first in this chamber, rather than child safety.

Mike Rumbles rose—

Mark Ruskell

Mr Rumbles would not take an intervention from me, and I need to make progress. If Mr Rumbles sees that comment as an insult, he can reflect on it.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I say from the chair that I think that Mr Rumbles is entitled to an intervention, after what was said.

Mark Ruskell

Well, that is for me to decide, Presiding Officer.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

It is for you to decide. I ask you to think about that.

Mark Ruskell

I will take an intervention on that point, then.

Mike Rumbles

It is a point of order, Presiding Officer.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Apologies. I had not heard that you wanted to make a point of order.

Mike Rumbles

I do not wish to intervene on Mr Ruskell, because he has cast a slur on my motivation. He implied that I am some sort of representative of the motor industry. I do not believe that that is consistent with the approach in our code of conduct, and I would like Mr Ruskell to withdraw that allegation.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

That is not a point of order, but Mr Rumbles has made his point, and I ask Mr Ruskell to reflect on what Mr Rumbles has said. Mr Rumbles can take whatever action is appropriate under the circumstances following this meeting.

Mark Ruskell

I am reflecting on it. I am reflecting on the fact that Mr Rumbles was using arguments that were put to the committee by the motoring lobby, which he is advocating, so I stand by my comments.

I want to get back to the debate. I would like to quote what the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland said in its letter to the committee; to be honest, the chief officers of transportation know a little bit more about road signs and the roll-out of 20mph zones than Mr Rumbles does. SCOTS said:

“There appears to be a view expressed in the Report that such a default is not appropriate as it does not give local authorities the flexibility to devise 20mph limits that they consider appropriate for their areas. This is”—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

May I stop you there, Mr Ruskell? Can we have a bit of quiet, please? I understand that members are wanting to discuss things, but this is not the appropriate time. They can be discussed when this meeting of Parliament has concluded.

Mark Ruskell

I will read out the quote again:

“There appears to be a view expressed in the Report that such a default is not appropriate as it does not give local authorities the flexibility to devise 20mph limits that they consider appropriate for their areas. This is not factually correct.”

The people who implement 20mph zones are saying that the approach in the bill is not a one-size-fits-all approach, that it is proportionate and that it would allow authorities to select those roads on which they wished to retain a 30mph limit—the arterial routes.

Stewart Stevenson

Will the member take an intervention?

Mark Ruskell

No, I need to make progress—members have intervened on me a number of times.

I am disappointed in the current cabinet secretary’s view—this is the second cabinet secretary I have worked with on the bill. I hope that I am wrong, but it appears as though the Government is going into reverse on its own 20mph policy. The arguments that the cabinet secretary has made this afternoon go against the roll-out of 20mph that has taken place under Scottish Government guidance in Edinburgh, Clackmannanshire, and Glasgow; they also go against the advice of the Government’s active travel task force. Those local authorities are rolling out sign-only 20mph speed limits and are not investing in infrastructure on every single road. Indeed, the cabinet secretary’s guidance on 20mph moves away from infrastructure changes and putting in lumps and bumps whenever we want to create 20mph zones. I think that that makes a lot of sense, because we do not do that for roads with 30mph or 40mph speed limits—we do not create a design speed for every single road, because in order to—[Interruption.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Excuse me, again, Mr Ruskell. I ask everyone to please stop the rudeness that is happening during the debate. Mr Ruskell is quite softly spoken. I would like to hear him, and I think that everybody else should give some respect to the conclusion of the debate.

Mark Ruskell

Maybe I should raise my voice a bit, Presiding Officer, and we will get this debate going.

We do not design every single road in Scotland to the speed limit that is assigned to it—we rely on signage, other compliance measures and education. The cabinet secretary quotes the Department for Transport report. There is no evidence that setting 20mph speed limits on roads undermines the speed limit compliance on surrounding faster roads. That is the opposite of the conclusion that the Department for Transport report came to. When it looked at the area-wide roll-out of 20mph in Brighton, it found that compliance went up on the surrounding faster A and B roads. Therefore, compliance in that regard simply is not an issue; there are misunderstandings here.

On costs, I think that John Mason made the very astute point that not every financial memorandum is 100 per cent accurate, and I take some criticism on that. However, I again state that I believe that the core, substantive costs in the bill are accurate. The figures were worked on with those who would be tasked with implementing the bill from the organisation that represents all the roads authorities.

The proposed measure would cost 0.75 per cent of the transport budget over two years. Once 20mph is rolled out nationally, we will get the benefits year after year after year—SCOTS has told me that the life of a road sign is 30 years. We will get five lives saved and a reduction of 750 casualties every single year.

This is not a matter of active travel interventions and investment competing against 20mph zones. The experience in Europe is that both are needed. The experience of European cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam is to set the speed limit at a sensible level—that is, 20mph—and to also invest in the infrastructure. To get the change in walking and cycling that we desperately need, we need to start by changing the speed limit.

Of course, the cheapest thing for local authorities to do is nothing. That would simply be unacceptable, but that is the problem that we have at the moment. We have a postcode lottery; we have local discretion. It is interesting to note that the cabinet secretary argues for national consistency when it comes to the Transport (Scotland) Bill and pavement parking, but there is no acknowledgement of our need for national consistency when it comes to 20mph speed limits, which is disappointing given that the Welsh Government has now adopted that principle and wants every single community in Wales to have 20mph speed limits. Whether they are rural or urban communities does not make any difference to the children and vulnerable road users living in those streets—they need that protection.

Jamie Greene asked what the answer is and what the alternative is to the bill. I do not have an answer to that. I have been engaging with the Scottish Government for the past two and a half years. The member says that he is happy to work with me on an alternative. I have been working with his Welsh Tory colleagues, who backed a national default 20mph speed limit for Wales. Maybe Jamie Greene should get in touch with them—David Melding will tell him why that is the most effective approach and why we need to move towards it.

I do not know how much time I have got left, Presiding Officer. Do I have a couple of minutes? I had a lot of interventions.

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

You can take another minute or two if you wish, but I ask that you draw your remarks to a conclusion.

Mark Ruskell


One alternative route that the cabinet secretary has put forward is to change the traffic regulation order process to make things simpler. Again, I point to the members of SCOTS, who are the people who would have to implement that measure. SCOTS says that simplifying the TRO procedure would be welcome but that the current procedure is

“not the fundamental cause of the low take up to date of 20mph speed limits”.

It goes on:

“We are therefore cautious on what actual difference any changes would make to a wider 20mph roll-out.”

The cabinet secretary can write as many letters as he likes to SCOTS and local authorities, but I fear that we will be back in the same place in the autumn and that local authorities will turn round and say, “Do you know what? The cheapest and most effective way to get national consistency is to have a national default of 20mph.” We will be back in the same place and I will be on my feet asking the same questions all over again.

Every child and every other person living on every street in Scotland deserves their freedom and their right to play, walk and cycle and to live without fear. Every country and city across Europe that values those rights and freedoms is setting a safer speed limit—a 20mph speed limit. This is Scotland’s moment to put our values first, to put lives first and to vote for safer streets for everyone.