Scotland’s default 20mph limit rejected by Holyrood committee

11.50 | 31 May 2019 | | 5 comments

A committee of MSPs has rejected a Bill to make 20mph the default speed limit across Scotland, saying a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach would not give local authorities enough flexibility.

The Restricted Roads (20mph speed limit) Scotland Bill was first introduced by Mark Ruskell, a Scottish Green Party MSP, in September 2018.

Mr Ruskell says that making 20mph ‘the norm’ in urban areas would reduce injuries and deaths and cut air pollution.

Over the last few months, the Bill has been scrutinised by Scottish Parliament’s rural economy and connectivity committee – with witnesses including transport secretary Michael Matheson, who said decisions about 20mph speed limits ‘were best left to councils’.

Reaching its conclusion, the committee said that while it supported lowering some speed limits, it was unable to recommend the general principles of the Bill.

Edward Mountain MSP, committee convener, said: “After considering extensive evidence, the committee has concluded that the introduction of 20mph speed limits on all restricted roads in Scotland in a one-size-fits-all approach is not the most effective way of achieving those objectives.

“The committee is of the view that local authorities should have the flexibility to decide where new 20mph zones would be most effective and appropriate for their areas.”

MSPs urged to ‘find a backbone’
Responding to the outcome, Mark Ruskell says the committee had ‘put the motoring lobby ahead of child safety’, and is urging SNP members to ‘find a backbone’ before the Bill is voted on by Scottish parliament in June.

Mr Ruskell said: “My Bill will be put to a vote in two weeks’ time. That’s how long the SNP have to find a backbone and get behind it.

“They claim to be the party that embraces change, yet they’ve teamed up with the Tories to block progress and have fallen behind Wales, who this month announced a national switch to 20mph limits.

“Every child in Scotland deserves to live in a street with a safe speed limit. At the moment that’s a postcode lottery.”

Decision a ‘setback for safer streets’
The Bill’s rejection by the rural economy and connectivity committee has been criticised by walking charity Living Streets.

Stuart Hay, director of Living Streets Scotland, said: “It’s deeply disappointing that a piecemeal approach to 20mph limits in Scotland will continue.

“People in Edinburgh and Glasgow currently benefit from safer streets, whilst smaller communities in many council areas are ignored.

“Slower speeds save lives. Very few people die in streets that are 20mph, whilst most pedestrian casualties occur in urban 30mph areas. It’s appalling this measure hasn’t been properly considered or supported.”



Comment on this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Report a reader comment

Order by Latest first | Oldest first | Highest rated | Lowest rated

    The ‘blanket’ approach is just exactly that, something to cover an issue that is far more complex that applying a 20’s plenty mentality!
    Put in a 20 mph speed limit, most motorists will do 25 – 30 mph! Put in a 30 mph speed limit they will do 35 – 45 mph!
    I’ve listened to the fanfare of the 4 E’s.
    The promotion of the attempted changing the psychology of drivers etc.
    Here’s a plain true none PC fact. The majority of drivers that break speed limits, consider themselves in the main LAW ABIDING CITIZENS! It’s an inescapable fact! Please, please stop trying to dress it up otherwise. Police officers speed (on & off duty, I’ve seen it! I’m sure others will have to?).
    What’s to be done, you ask? You assume I have all the answers? I don’t!
    What I do know is that all road user groups in this country lack one essential skill set. Continual training & assessment of their road user skills.
    Pass your test at 17 drive or ride till your 70, without not one check of your ability or Highway Code knowledge, worst of all EYESIGHT!!
    Yes any politician or political party getting on a manifesto pledge saying that they are bringing in these most cost effective ROAD SAFETY MEASURES might take a hammering at the polls, or they could put it as a cross party & bench proposal. Cost? It would be self financing as you would have to pay to update your license every 10 years as is in the case of the photo license anyway?
    So 20 mph? Mandatory in all residential roads & outside schools , most certainly. Those that transgress? Loss of license for minimum of 3 months. That’s the message that needs to be sent. Draconian? Better than a dead child or pedestrian I would say?

    Sandy Allan, Aberdeen
    Agree (2) | Disagree (8)


    Typical of what? Mark Ruskell is an MSP who is commenting on members of a committee who have supported a climate emergency statement, supported active travel and supported road safety and yet when an opportunity comes along to do something about it are agonising over the detail which the government could resolve and banging on about being a “one-size-fits-all” solution with the chairs opening remarks commenting on cyclists overtaking him at 30-40mph.

    With an £883m budget for motorways and trunk roads it seems nonsense to advise against a bill because it may cost £33m rather than £20m. See our response at

    I know that Mark Ruskell respects the right to hold a different view, but equally it is entirely appropriate to question how that view was formed and consequential actions.

    I note that in Wales the government, with cross-party support, is taking a far more robust approach by putting together a Task & Finish Group to sort out the detail and deliver a national 20mph default for residential streets.

    Rod King, Warrington
    Agree (2) | Disagree (8)

    Pretty typical response by Mr Ruskell. If you don’t agree with him, he seems to think you don’t have any backbone. What happened to respecting a person’s right to hold a different view?

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (16) | Disagree (2)

    Well let’s examine what Ed Mountain said “the introduction of 20mph speed limits on all restricted roads in Scotland in a one-size-fits-all approach is not the most effective way of achieving those objectives.”

    The bill only applies to restricted roads which are not A or B roads. In addition local authorities could exclude any restricted roads that they wished to. Hence it is patently untrue to describe this as “all restricted roads”.

    It is also untrue that this bill is a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Any dictionary definition of “one-size-fits-all” describes it as :-

    “One size fits all” is a description for a product that would fit in all instances. The term has been extended to mean one style or procedure would fit in all related applications.

    The current national speed limit of 30mph for restricted roads makes no distinction between residential roads and A/Broads and hence this bill is far less “one-size-fits-all” than the approach it would replace. It is also untrue to describe it as “blanket”.

    He also talks of local authorities “getting the flexibility to set 20mph roads where most effective and appropriate”. As the current guidance is supportive of 20mph for residential roads then the bill actually gives them this flexibility by automatically excluding A and B roads as well as any others the local authority decides. Hence local flexibility is built into the bill.

    It is certainly concerning that the chair of the committee considering the bill has made such an untrue remarks in justifying the committee’s decision.

    Rod King, Warrington
    Agree (3) | Disagree (14)

    “Slower speeds save lives” – true in itself, but getting the motorists to maintain the necessary ‘slower speeds’ is always the problem and that is not the fault of the limit itself nor the authorities who implement them.. as ever, it’s the drivers who are the weakest link.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (15) | Disagree (2)

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.