THE majority of Scots support plans to cut the speed limits on roads in residential areas from 30mph to 20mph, according to a new opinion poll.

The news comes as the Scottish Green MSP, Mark Ruskell, prepares to launch a public consultation on his proposed law to make 20mph limits the default in built-up areas. The consultation is due to be published tomorrow.

Making 20mph the norm in urban areas would make streets safer and cleaner by reducing injuries and deaths from road accidents and cutting pollution, campaigners say. Their campaign has been backed by the Sunday Herald.

The polling agency Survation asked 1,018 people last month to what extent they supported or opposed the proposal for a default 20mph limit. Some 52.9 per cent said they supported the idea and 28.4 per cent said they opposed it.

When don’t knows and those who neither supported or opposed the idea are omitted, the figures rise to 65 per cent in favour and 35 per cent against. The survey also found that nearly one in four people think that a default 20mph limit would make them more likely to walk or cycle in their everyday life.

There is now real momentum behind a 20mph limit, Ruskell argued. “A wide range of interests from transport and health experts to environmental campaigners back the idea - and it's great that we now know that a majority of the Scottish public are behind it,” he said.

“We have a great opportunity to make a small change that will have huge benefits for pedestrian safety, especially children and the elderly. It's also good news for public health generally, as lower limits reduce air pollution and as this poll shows it will encourage more people to cycle along their streets.”

Ruskell pointed out that 30mph limits dated back a century, and the volume and speed of traffic had much increased. “A lower limit will help us reclaim the streets where we live, shop and go to schools or day centres,” he said.

“The idea that 20mph is only for drop off and pick up times immediately outside a school gate is thoroughly outdated. We need safer streets for all, and I look forward to launching the consultation on my member's bill.”

Rod King, the founder and director of the campaign group, 20’s Plenty for US, argued that there was strong support within community for wide-area 20mph limits. “Such 20mph or 30km/h limits are being adopted across the world,” he told the Sunday Herald.

“It makes for better community life; it better protects children, the elderly and disabled; it reduces emissions leading to better air quality; it lowers the fear of walking or cycling on our roads, all with a minimal effect on journey times.”

To bring in 20mph limits local authorities currently have to make a series of traffic regulation orders community by community. A default 20mph limit would mean that instead they would have to choose the roads that should retain 30mph limits.

King praised Ruskell’s proposed legislation and will be in Edinburgh tomorrow to help launch the consultation on it. “This bill builds on world-wide best practice and implements it in a cost effective manner that benefits from the scale of national action and combines it with local flexibility,” he said.

Last week the World Health Organisation backed 20mph or 30km/h limits as best practice. “A safe speed on roads with possible conflicts between cars and pedestrians, cyclists or other vulnerable road users is 30 km/h,” it said.