Scotland politics

MSPs vote down 20mph speed limit bill

20mph zone sign Image copyright Getty Images

MSPs have voted down a bill seeking to make 20mph the standard speed limit on residential streets in Scotland.

Green MSP Mark Ruskell had put forward the legislation in a bid to reduce deaths and serious injuries on roads.

But SNP, Conservative and Lib Dem MSPs sided with Holyrood's rural economy committee that the bill's "one size fits all" approach was not appropriate.

Mr Ruskell said the bill "would have saved lives" and called on ministers to say what action they will take instead.

Green and active travel groups also voiced disappointment, with Friends of the Earth Scotland calling the move "a damning indictment of a parliament that pays lip service to the need for a reduction in car use".

Mr Ruskell put the bill forward after winning the backing of 25 Green, SNP, Labour and Lib Dem MSPs, as well as environmental groups and round-the-world cyclist Mark Beaumont.

It would have made 20mph the standard speed limit for "restricted roads", residential and minor roads in urban and rural areas, leaving councils the power to designate 30mph zones - essentially the reverse of the current system.

The Green MSP said this would be the "simplest, quickest and cheapest" way to change the system, and a move which would "save lives, make our streets safer, and encourage more people to walk and cycle more".

However after taking evidence, a majority of members on the rural economy committee concluded that while expanding 20mph zones was a good aim, the "one size fits all approach proposed in the bill is not appropriate".

Image copyright Scottish Greens
Image caption Green MSP Mark Ruskell won backing from green campaigners for his legislation - but not from enough MSPs

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson reiterated the concerns raised by the committee, saying that "local authorities are best placed to make local decisions, based on their local knowledge and evidence, on where 20 mph speed limits should be implemented".

He hit back at claims from the Greens that the government was not prioritising child safety, saying ministers had to take "appropriate" measures. He pledged to look at "alternative, more flexible" options, including reducing the barriers councils currently face in setting up 20mph zones.

The Scottish Conservatives also rejected the bill, with MSP Jamie Greene calling it "the wrong answer to the right question".

And the Lib Dems also voted against it, with Mike Rumbles telling Mr Ruskell that the committee had been being "polite" when they wrote that his financial plans underpinning the bill were "not robust".

He added that the bill "did not do what it said on the tin", and would "impose significant costs on local authorities and undermine work that would be more effective and reducing casualties".

In the final vote, 83 members opposed the bill, with only 26 - mostly Labour and Green members and one from the SNP - voting in favour. Four SNP members abstained.

Mr Ruskell said the bill "had the backing of councils, health organisations and the public", and that the government had "acquiesced to the demands of the motoring lobby and voted to maintain a postcode lottery of road safety which puts lives at risk".

And Labour's transport spokesman Colin Smyth said the move was "a setback to the safety of Scotland's children".

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