IT is an idea which could transform they way people have moved around Scotland's towns and cities since the dawn of the age of the motor car.

And to many used to getting from A to B as quick as they can, it would seem to be a step back to the days when the roads were ruled by the horse and cart.

Yet now fresh research has found that cutting the speed limit in towns by 10 mph could not only save lives - it could spare the public purse a bill of millions of pounds each year.

Last year, there were 26 pedestrians killed on built-up roads in Scotland, up from 23 in 2016.

There was also a 12 per cent increase in serious injuries to cyclists on built-up roads - an 18 per cent increase on the 04-08 average.

Currently, local authorities are in charge of when and where speed limits of 20 mph are put in place, and they have been introduced in a piecemeal fashion, such as zones in South Central Edinburgh and near schools in Glasgow and elsewhere.

READ MORE: Glasgow and Edinburgh both back 20mph speed limit

But according to a study by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH), slowing down traffic everywhere could be the key to making Scotland a safer place .

HeraldScotland:

Based on studies of 20mph in other cities, the GCPH found that imposing a similar limit in Scotland could cut road casualties by more than 10 per cent, and save up to £39.9m per year in costs to the emergency services.

READ MORE: Dramatic footage showing child cyclist’s near-miss prompts road safety warning

The report was based on three models - a higher estimate of 13.5 per cent reduction in casualties based on similar results to Bristol’s 20mph scheme, a middle estimate of 9.5 per cent based on the average speed reduction in the South Central Edinburgh pilot, and a significantly lower estimate of 2.6 per cent the amount required to save just one life per year.

Under the higher estimate, there could be 755 fewer casualties, including saving save five lives per year and £39.9m.

The middle estimate could result in 531 fewer casualties and save three lives a year and £27m wjle the lower estimate could reduce casualties by 145 per year and save one life per year along with £7.8m.

These figures account only for road casualty reductions and do not take into account the lives and money saved as a result of cleaner air and increased active travel which are added benefits of 20mph speed limits.

HeraldScotland:

Bruce Whyte, Public Health Programme Manager at the GCPH and author of the report, said: “Reducing road traffic speed in our towns and cities will save lives and reduce the number of people injured on our roads, particularly among more vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists.

READ MORE: Green MSP Mark Ruskell bids to cut national speed limit in Scotland from 30mph to 20mph

“Lowering the average road speed will make roads safer and help to encourage more people to walk and cycle, contributing to greater physical activity, better air quality and reduced carbon emissions.

“A safer lower speed environment around schools would also encourage more children to walk, cycle and scoot to school and would help to embed every day active travel at any early age.”

Scottish Green MSP Mark Russell has called for a blanket reduction of the speed limit across Scotland and is currently seeking support from other MSPs for his Members Bill on the subject at the Scottish Parliament.

He wants to see the default speed limit in built up areas across Scotland fall from to 20mph, although some roads could remain at 30 mph "with the agreement" of communities.

HeraldScotland:

Mr Russell said: “I am delighted to hear the report from GCPH highlights not only the significant benefits 20mph brings to people’s lives, including their safety, health and well-being, but the substantial savings to the public purse.

“Recently, East Lothian Council announced they were delaying any new 20mph Limits to see how this member’s bill progresses through the parliament. It is essential that the Parliament process this bill in a timely manner.

“This bill will save lives, make our living spaces more pleasant, and, in the long run save money. I look forward to it receiving committee scrutiny in the months ahead.”

A Spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “We note the report and we are clear that 20 mph speed limits are a good idea when implemented in the right environment.

“Given the varied nature of Scotland's urban road network and the number of factors which need considered when setting appropriate limits, we believe decisions on 20mph speed limits are best taken at the local authority level.

“The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity met with Mark Ruskell MSP regarding his plans to bring forward a Member’s Bill on 20mph speed limits and we look forward to seeing the detail of any legislative proposals which are submitted to Parliament.”