PROPOSALS to make Scotland the first country in the world with a default speed limit of 20mph will be considered by MSPs within weeks.

The Member's Bill by Green MSP Mark Ruskell has cross-party support, including from 12 SNP MSPs, but has sparked warnings that a blanket slowdown of traffic in residential and built-up areas will hit the economy.

Read more: Glasgow and Edinburgh both back 20mph national limit

Mr Ruskell is pushing for the national speed limit in Scotland to be cut from 30mph to 20mph on so- called "restricted roads".

FOR: the case for a 20mph National Limit

The Herald:

Professor Chris Oliver, Physical Activity for Health Research Centre, University of Edinburgh

"The introduction and rolling out for 20mph in Edinburgh has already had a profound effect on injury rates which have fallen by an astounding 25 per cent.

"It’s difficult for anyone to argue against 20mph when so many more vulnerable road users are now not being injured. It’s not just about cyclists but also about pedestrians being saved from injury.

"Edinburgh Council have recently rolled out 20mph across the whole city and the longer term effects may be even more profound. I would hope that 20mph is rolled out across all of Scotland.

"I also think that the reduction of pollution with 20mph will have a very significant effect on health, particularly that of children. Scotland is leading the way with improved Active Travel infrastructure.

"In the future we can look forward to experimental 'car free days' and increasing pedestrianisation of city centres in Scotland. We have to get the public out of reliance on their cars and move across to walking, cycling, public transport and trains where possible."


These are defined as roads lit by street lights that are no more than 185 metres (600ft) apart. It would automatically affect roads close to housing, pedestrians or busy public spaces such as town centres.

Mr Ruskell said the move would lead to fewer severe and fatal traffic accidents, encourage more people to walk and cycle, and cut air pollution.

He added that introducing a national 20mph speed limit would cost £4.3 million in signage compared to £17.2m if every local authority rolled out their own Edinburgh-style 20mph zones individually.

Read more: Global study supports drive for 20mph limit

Councils would still be able to set a 30mph speed limit on chosen roads using a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO), but would have to make a case for doing so.

Mr Ruskell said: "The case for 20mph has been won. The benefits of speed reduction are well understood and supported now by the World Health Organisation and OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development]."

He added: "There's a consequence of higher speed - increased casualties and deaths. Every 1mph you reduce cuts the accident rate by four to six per cent.

"We would be the first country to introduce a default 20mph limit. We would be world leaders."

AGAINST: the case against a 20mph National Limit

The Herald:

Councillor Nick Cook, Edinburgh City Council Conservative group transport spokesman

"The Scottish Government would be wise to pay attention to the many lessons of Edinburgh's blanket 20mph scheme and others across the UK."

"Edinburgh City Council’s drive to become Scotland's first 20mph city has cost taxpayers millions of pounds, proved divisive and has caused confusion for drivers and pedestrians alike."

"Blanket 20mph schemes dilute effectiveness of targeted areas which genuinely benefit from 20mph zones -  such as outside schools."

"They are neither environmentally friendly or efficient, with slower speeds meaning longer journey times and even greater congestion - a particular concerns in Scotland's growing cities."

"Evidence from elsewhere in the UK also suggests broad 20mph schemes produce a reduction in speed of just 1mph. in some instances they have actually lead to increased casualty numbers."

"Little wonder then that some Local Authorities in England have either scrapped or rolled back their own 20mph schemes."

"Rather than broad brush, one-size-fits-all schemes, resources should be targeted intelligently on education and road improvements to keep people safe on our streets."


Drivers caught breaking the new 20mph limit would face the same £100 fine and three penalty points on their licence that speeders currently receive.

Mr Ruskell hopes to bring his Bill to the Scottish Parliament before the summer recess.

It comes after criticism that 20mph limits introduced across Edinburgh in 2016 have not been enforced. Figures in March this year showed that Police Scotland had issued fines to just 55 out of 960 drivers caught breaking the limit.

Read more: Call for inquiry into mystery surge in Scottish road deaths

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: "Blanket speed limits don't work. If you want to change driver behaviour you need to spend more and change the character of the road."

However, Rod King, spokesman for the campaign group '20's Plenty for Us', said a blanket 20mph limit would save lives.

Mr King said: "After Bristol implemented 20mph limits, the University of the West of England estimated a reduction of four fatalities, 11 serious and 159 slight injuries a year. With a national roll-out with enforcement and the consistency of knowing 20 is plenty except in certain places Scotland can expect similar benefits."

However, critics warned that the scheme could have a knock on effect for businesses and consumers.

David Watt, executive director of the Institute of Directors, Scotland, said: "I'm concerned about the impact it will have on business and the economy, in terms of slowing everything down. I am certain the economic impact research has not been done."

A Road Haulage Association spokesman said: "If lower speed limits slow down journey times for lorries, that will have cost implications for hauliers which will be passed to other businesses in the supply chain then the consumer."

Herald View: 20mph limit could put Scotland ahead of the game

The UK's 30mph limit dates back to the 1930s, but the Scottish Government has the power to set its own limits.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: "Given the varied nature of our urban road network and factors which need to be considered when setting limits, decisions on speed limits are best taken at local authority level. But the Transport Minister will keep an open mind."