Campaigners to urge MSPs to back move for 20mph residential streets limit

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Campaigners are to hold a demonstration outside of the Scottish Parliament, calling for a 20mph default speed limit on residential streets.

Demonstrators will place 60 chairs outside of the parliament building in Edinburgh on Tuesday to represent the number of lives they say could have been saved had the limit been put in 1999 – when the parliament was first convened.

Travel and environmental groups including Friends of the Earth Scotland, Cycling UK, Pedal on Parliament, Spokes Lothian, Go Bike and 20s Plenty, will join together as part of the demonstration, along with other campaigners, between 1pm and 2pm.

Last month, Holyrood’s rural economy committee refused to back a Bill seeking to make 20mph the standard speed limit on residential streets.

It had been put forward by Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell with the aim of reducing deaths and serious injuries on roads.

Of the committee’s 11 members, eight MSPs said they were unable to recommend the general principles of the Bill, while three – John Finnie, John Mason and Colin Smyth – disagreed with the majority conclusion and argued that “the current inconsistent use of 20mph speed limits is confusing and undermines road safety”.

MSPs will vote on Stage 1 of Mr Ruskell’s Bill at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

Gavin Thomson, an air pollution campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said MSPs must take the chance to demonstrate they are taking action to tackle climate change.

“This Bill is vital to making our streets healthier and safer,” said Mr Thomson.

“Our politicians have a chance to show that they’re to take action to face up to the climate emergency.

“This means making our roads safer so more of us can walk and cycle safely, and leave our polluting cars behind. It is shocking that MSPs are planning to put the need for motorists’ speed ahead of the need for public safety.”

In April, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared a “climate emergency” at the SNP conference in Edinburgh.

The Scottish government has also committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 – five years ahead of the UK as a whole.

Sally Hinchcliffe, from Pedal on Parliament, said that MSPs must explain what measures they will take to reduce road danger if they do not back Mr Ruskell’s proposed Bill.

Ms Hinchcliffe said: “This legislation presents a perfect opportunity to make our towns and cities safer right across Scotland, eliminating the postcode lottery of safer streets for children walking or cycling.

“If MSPs don’t want to support this bill, we challenge them to tell us what measures they will enact that would reduce road danger for vulnerable road users as effectively as this.”

Duncan Dollimore, of Cycling UK, added: “Despite acknowledging the safety benefits of 20mph limits, the Scottish government seems to want to carry on regardless, leaving local authorities to decide whether or not to introduce lower limits.

“But had such a limit been introduced when the Scottish Parliament was founded, 60 families might have been spared the agony of losing a loved one in a road collision.

“They might ask, why won’t their government lead and assume, rather than duck responsibility?”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “We note the recommendations of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee and are considering their findings.

“The committee noted that the ‘one-size-fits all’ 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. We agree with this assessment and our approach is about empowering local authorities with flexible tools to respond to local and specific transport challenges.

“We have always been clear that we share the view that 20 mile per hour speed limits are a good idea when implemented in the right environment. Local authorities already can and do successfully implement 20mph limits as we’ve seen in both Glasgow and Edinburgh.

“However, we believe, and it is shared with many local authorities, that more evidence and further consideration needs to be given to the impact and consequences of a nationwide default 20mph limit before the measures proposed in the Bill can be fully supported.”

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