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Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill

Overview

This Bill aims to reduce the speed limit on ‘restricted’ roads in towns and cities to 20 miles per hour (mph), replacing the current 30 mph default speed limit.

‘Restricted’ roads include most residential streets and minor roads in built-up areas. These are generally streets which have street lights.

At present, the usual speed limit on these roads is 30 mph, unless a sign says it’s lower.

You can find out more in the Scottish Government document that explains the bill.

Why the Bill was created

Lowering the speed limit to a consistent 20 mph should reduce the number of road casualties and deaths.

Making the roads safer and cleaner should also encourage people to walk or cycle more.

Currently, local authorities can create 20 mph zones in their areas, but these zones can be time-consuming and expensive to set up.

The current different speed limits across towns and cities has created a ‘patchwork’ system which is confusing for road users.

Find out more about the research into the effectiveness of 20mph speed limits.

You can find out more in the Scottish Government document that explains the bill.

The Bill at different stages

'Bills' are proposed laws. Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) discuss them to decide if they should become law.

Here are the different versions of the Bill:

The Bill as introduced

Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill

The Scottish Government sends the Bill and the related documents to the Scottish Parliament.

Bill is at ScottishParliament.SC.Feature.BillComponents.Models.BillStageModel?.DefaultBillStage?.Stage_Name stage.

Where do laws come from?

The Scottish Parliament can make decisions about many things like:

  • agriculture and fisheries
  • education and training
  • environment
  • health and social services
  • housing
  • justice and policing
  • local government
  • some aspects of tax and social security

These are 'devolved matters'.

Laws that are decided by the Scottish Parliament come from:

Government Bills

These are Bills that have been introduced by the Scottish Government. They are sometimes called 'Executive Bills'.

Most of the laws that the Scottish Parliament looks at are Government Bills.

Hybrid Bills

These Bills are suggested by the Scottish Government.

As well as having an impact on a general law, they could also have an impact on organisations' or the public's private interests.

The first Hybrid Bill was the Forth Crossing Bill.

Members' Bill

These are Bills suggested by MSPs. Every MSP can try to get 2 laws passed in the time between elections. This 5-year period is called a 'parliamentary session'.

To do this, they need other MSPs from different political parties to support their Bills.

Committee Bills

These are Bills suggested by a group of MSPs called a committee.

These are Public Bills because they will change general law.

Private Bills

These are Bills suggested by a person, group or company. They usually:

  • add to an existing law
  • change an existing law

A committee would be created to work on a Private Bill.

Bill stage timeline

The Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill fell at Stage 1 on 13 June 2019.

Bill is at Introduced stage.
Introduced (21 September 2018)
Bill is at Stage 1 stage.
Stage 1
Bill is at Stage 2 stage.
Stage 2
Bill is at Stage 3 stage.
Stage 3
Bill is at Becomes Law stage.
Becomes Law

Introduced

The Scottish Government sends the Bill and related documents to the Parliament.

Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill as introduced

Related information from the Scottish Government on the Bill

Why the Bill is being proposed (Policy Memorandum)

Explanation of the Bill (Explanatory Notes)

How much the Bill is likely to cost (Financial Memorandum)

Opinions on whether the Parliament has the power to make the law (Statements on Legislative Competence)

Information on the powers the Bill gives the Scottish Government and others (Delegated Powers Memorandum)

Scottish Parliament research on the Bill 

Stage 1 - General principles

Committees examine the Bill. Then MSPs vote on whether it should continue to Stage 2.

Have your say

The deadline for sharing your views on this Bill has passed. Read the views that were given.

Who examined the Bill

Each Bill is examined by a 'lead committee'. This is the committee that has the subject of the Bill in its remit.

It looks at everything to do with the Bill.

Other committees may look at certain parts of the Bill if it covers subjects they deal with.

Who spoke to the lead committee about the Bill

Video Thumbnail Preview PNG

First meeting transcript

The Convener

Agenda item 4 is stage 1 consideration of the Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill. I invite members to declare any relevant interests.

Stewart Stevenson

I am the honorary president of the Scottish Association for Public Transport, which has an interest in roads.

The Convener

Thank you. In this, the committee’s first evidence-taking session on the bill, the committee will take evidence from academic, health, environmental and health sector perspectives. I welcome Rod King, founder and campaign director, 20’s Plenty for Us; Stuart Hay, director, Living Streets Scotland; Dr Adrian Davis, professor of transport and health, Edinburgh Napier University; Bruce Whyte, public health programme manager, Glasgow Centre for Population Health; and Gavin Thomson, air pollution campaigner, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Scottish Environment LINK.

I do not know whether you have all given evidence at committee before, so I will say how it works. You do not need to touch any buttons on the consoles in front of you, as the microphones will be activated for you. When you want to come in, you should try to catch my eye and I will bring you in at the appropriate moment. We have quite a big panel—there are five of you—so you might not all get to answer every question, but I will do my best to bring you in.

I hope that we will have relatively short questions that will prompt short answers, as that will allow more of you to get in. I caution you that, if you see me waggling my pen, it will probably mean that you should wind up. Ultimately, it will become so quick that it might fly off in your direction if you are not paying attention to me, so please do not keep speaking and look the other way. In the unlikely event that you all look away when a question is asked, one of you will be nominated, so there is no hiding.

On that basis, we will start, and the first question will be asked by Colin Smyth.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

This is probably the most straightforward question that you will be asked during the meeting. Why do you support the proposal to reduce the default speed limit on restricted roads from 30mph to 20mph?

The Convener

As it is such a simple question, we will start on my right—your left—with Rod King and work along the panel to get a short answer from each of you, please.

Rod King MBE (20’s Plenty for Us)

We have to start with what we have now, which is a 30mph limit that was set in 1934 and was very much plucked out of the air as seeming reasonable. We have to ask ourselves whether that is appropriate for nearly a century later when we have so many more aspirations for ways in which we want to use the roads to do with public health, active travel and people’s ability to move around independently under their own steam. A limit of 20mph or 30kph is the developing standard across the world as the safe and appropriate speed limit where pedestrians and cyclists mix with motor vehicles.

Stuart Hay (Living Streets Scotland)

We support the proposal for the same reasons. It is really about creating towns and other places that are safe and feel safe for people to walk or cycle around and for kids to play in. A limit of 20mph is the only way to achieve that. A limit of 30mph is not appropriate if we want to have those conditions in our towns and cities.

Professor Adrian Davis (Edinburgh Napier University)

Notwithstanding what has been said, one of the key things is to reduce the numbers of deaths, serious injuries and slight injuries, which predominantly—in cities, at least—happen to people who are outside vehicles. Those people do not present much of a threat kinetically to other road users, but they suffer disproportionately.

Scotland has agreed and is trying to implement vision zero, which is about having no fatalities or life-changing injuries, and a 20mph limit is important in that regard, as it dampens down the kinetic energy in the system. It is also important as a public health position, as it increases population health, reduces the disease burden and reduces the cost to the national health service.

Bruce Whyte (Glasgow Centre for Population Health)

As Adrian Davis said, there is the great benefit of reducing casualties. Currently, 60 per cent of serious and fatal casualties on 30mph roads are vulnerable road users such as walkers or cyclists. We also know that there are inequalities in who is likely to be a casualty. Casualty numbers are higher among adult pedestrians in more deprived areas, and higher again among child pedestrians. The bill will help to address those inequalities across Scotland.

Gavin Thomson (Scottish Environment LINK)

I am very happy to be here. Reducing the default speed limit will improve the flow of traffic, reduce congestion and emissions and encourage more active and healthier travel choices, and all those things will have positive impacts on air quality. As an air pollution campaigner, that is why I support the bill.

Colin Smyth

Does any of you know what percentage of 30mph roads in Scotland are restricted roads that will, therefore, be covered by the bill?

Stuart Hay

I have asked that question. I believe that it is quite difficult to get the data from local authorities, because it relates to the number of traffic regulation orders that are out there, and nobody has collated them all.

The Convener

There are supplementary questions on that issue.

10:15  



Mike Rumbles

We are considering changing criminal law—breaking the speed limit is a crime. A publication from the Scottish Parliament information centre, which is publicly available, refers to research on the 20mph speed limit pilot in south Edinburgh. It said:

“The average speed of vehicles on streets, provided with a 20mph speed limit, has dropped by an average of 1.9mph from 22.8mph to 20.9mph.”

Before the speed limit went down to 20mph, the majority of motorists were not breaking the law. When it was reduced, the average speed exceeded the limit, which means that most motorists are breaking the law. Do you have any comments on that?

Professor Davis

First, I will provide a bit of the science behind that, by way of explanation. From the peer-reviewed literature on the science of speed and kinetic energy, we know that for every 1mph reduction in average speed, there is a 6 per cent reduction in the number of collisions. We know that the slower people travel, the more time they have to make the decision to stop. The faster they go—for example, once they get over 30mph—the more dangerous things become, and people often drive at well over 30mph where there is a 30mph speed limit. We have to think about the kinetic energy and the impact.

Often, the press portray a 1mph or 1.9mph average speed reduction as being not really worth it—we see that time and again—but that lacks understanding of the science of kinetic energy and the significant drop in the number of collisions that result from that reduction. We have seen data from Portsmouth City Council—the first authority in England to implement a 20mph speed limit across a whole city—Calderdale Council, Bristol City Council and Warrington Borough Council, where, as a result of speed reductions, significant reductions have been reported in the number of casualties. The link can be seen—if the kinetic energy is reduced, the likelihood is that the number of injuries is reduced.

As a coda to that, I point out that Scotland was the first place in the United Kingdom to implement a 20mph speed limit. That was done in 75 sites across 27 local authorities at the end of the 1990s, and there were significant reductions in the number of casualties. Scotland was the first place to do it and we have good evidence that small average reductions are important.

Mike Rumbles

Professor Davis did not address my question, which is about criminality and the point that most motorists in south Edinburgh would now be considered to be criminals.

Rod King

One thing to remember is that when 20mph limits are set, a lot of roads are included where the speed is already low and possibly below 20mph.

There are three types of roads: residential roads with low speeds, roads with medium speeds of about 20 to 24mph and roads on which the speed is a little bit faster. Research shows that there is a mix of reductions in speed where 20mph speed limits are implemented. There is no reduction on the slow roads, some reduction on the medium-speed roads and a reduction of 3mph to 4mph on the faster roads.

Research also shows that, after the implementation of 20mph speed limits, the vast majority of people—80 per cent or so—travel below the speed at which there would be enforcement, which means that they travel at speeds below 25mph. There is good evidence on those changes.

Another point is that, if a consistent national limit is set and there is public consensus for it, compliance across the spectrum of speeds is affected, which obviously helps.

Mike Rumbles

My whole point is about compliance. We have 20mph speed limits in Edinburgh. The anecdotal evidence is that, sometimes, given the traffic, no one can drive more than 20mph, but that, at other times, quite a large number of people break the 20mph speed limit. What is the point of having a law that most people do not observe?

Stuart Hay

We should be aware that behaviour is no different where there is a 30mph speed limit. In fact, the statistics show that people behave worse in 30mph zones. A limit is a limit, and it is important that people drive according to the conditions. In an urban residential area, people should anticipate that there will be children and that sight lines are limited, and they should drive at about 20mph. Some drivers already do that, so the point about introducing a speed limit is to shift the behaviour of the other drivers. We can partly do that through education, so that people are aware of the new limit, partly through engineering, where necessary, and, finally, partly through enforcement, for the hard core who really do not get it.

The Convener

I have a follow-up question. The 20mph speed limit in Edinburgh is quite interesting. If you drive at 20mph, what you notice more than anything else is the bicyclists who are doing 30mph or 40mph downhill. Adrian Davis made the point about injury. Injury is about developing kilojoules of energy at a point of impact in a limited area. A bicycle will do that probably more effectively on a point of impact, because the point where it hits will be very narrow.

I know that bicyclists are a problem. What do you think about a car driver saying, “Well, I’m being overtaken by a bicycle.”? Does that make it easier for a driver to come to terms with the limit? Should we not be thinking about bicycles as well?

Professor Davis

That is an outlier question, because that is a minor point. Getting up to 30mph is quite difficult for most people on bikes. The science is based on mass and speed; there is an equation to measure that. It is the mass of the vehicle that will do more damage. You really do not want to get hit by a heavy goods vehicle, because you will be dead. With respect, convener, I say that mass is the most important consideration. A bike is much smaller. That is not the main point of consideration for us today. Most people are hit by motor vehicles.

The Convener

As convener, I will take your point that I should not ask outlier questions.

Stewart Stevenson

I want to deal with the numbers question before my substantive question. My question is for Professor Davis. If you have 10 vehicles travelling through a zone, nine of which are doing 29mph and one of which is doing 40 mph, 10 per cent of the vehicles are breaking the speed limit, but the average is 31mph. That suggests that averages are the wrong way of looking at the problem. Is it fair to say that we should be considering median speeds, rather than average speeds?

Professor Davis

If someone was travelling at 29mph or even 30mph, the person behind them who was trying to go at 40mph could not do so because they would be behind them in the queue. One thing that we have talked about in the literature on 20mph is pace cars: when people abide by the speed limit, it forces other people to abide by the speed limit.

Stewart Stevenson

I am just exploring the arithmetic, because the thrust of the previous question was about average speeds. The 40mph driver could be at the head of the queue, rather than at the back of the queue. If the average speed is above the speed limit, that does not tell us the amount of people who are breaking the speed limit. I just want to get on record whether my comment—as a mathematician—is correct.

Professor Davis

My way of answering that—I hope that this is not abstruse—is that we find across authorities from which we have post-implementation data that the really high speeds come down the most. That is one of the most dramatic changes: where people might previously have gone at 40mph, they might now go at 28mph, which is well above the speed limit, but is a lot less than 40mph. That is the best way that I can answer your question using the data that I have in my head.

Stewart Stevenson

I will move on to my more substantive question, which is not just for Professor Davis. The bill covers restricted roads only. In other words, it does not cover A or B roads, or roads on which lamp posts are more than 185m apart. In a sense, that comes back to the question that Stuart Hay could not answer about whether we have any sense of what that means in the real world. Stuart Hay said that he did not know, but do we have a sense of what part of the road network the bill would apply to?

Bruce Whyte

My understanding is that about 80 per cent of the roads in Edinburgh are covered by the 20mph limit, so that leaves 20 per cent.

Stewart Stevenson

Right. I want to home in on that figure in order to be precise. Is that 20 per cent of the distance or 20 per cent of the number of roads?

Bruce Whyte

I am not certain, but I think that it might be 20 per cent of roads.

Stewart Stevenson

Twenty per cent of roads are unaffected.

Bruce Whyte

Yes. I think that it will have been decided that some roads are restricted roads but the speed limit should remain at 30mph, or whatever it was previously.

Stewart Stevenson

The bill is only about restricted roads. Is that too restrictive in terms of what we are trying to achieve in policy terms?

Rod King

The bill seeks to set what would be appropriate—the right national consensus—for most roads. It will not take away a local authority’s ability to use its flexibility. When a local authority is considering in what areas 20mph could be appropriate, 90 per cent of its roads might be restricted, so they would clearly come into that category. Another 5 per cent might be unrestricted but the authority wants the limit to stay at 30mph; and there might be another 5 per cent of roads that are not restricted but it wishes to make 20mph roads. In the latter case, the local authority can make a traffic regulation order to make those roads into restricted roads, which would enable it to accommodate those 20mph limits.

The Convener

Jamie Greene has a supplementary question.

Jamie Greene

Given the opening comments, it is fair to say that every member of the panel is in favour of the bill, which is quite short.

Stewart Stevenson

The debate is about the principle of the bill.

Jamie Greene

As Stewart Stevenson said, the panel is in favour of the principle of the bill.

It is quite striking that nobody can answer fundamental and simple questions about how many roads or what percentage of road mileage would be affected by the bill that we are being asked to agree to. In Edinburgh, there even still seems to be uncertainty about how many roads are affected in the current zone, never mind how many would be affected in future zones. In order for us to consider fully the consequences of the bill, it is entirely appropriate that we get a sense of the scale of its impact, but no one seems to be able to provide an answer on that. Why is that?

Stuart Hay

We cannot do exact numbers, but we can say what—

Jamie Greene

Surely you can answer on how many roads there are and what the road mileage is.

Stuart Hay

No. Basically, that would mean counting up all the 30mph areas in Scotland that have an order applied to them—those are areas that the bill would affect. We have a very developed network; those streets have all been assessed at 30mph, and most of them would go down to 20mph. Where it was deemed appropriate by local authorities, a few would be retained at 30mph. From Living Streets Scotland’s point of view, those roads would be in places such as industrial estates, where there is not a lot of pedestrian activity and the primary function of the roads is to be distributor roads. However, the 20mph roads would cover all residential areas, areas where there is lot of pedestrian activity—for example, around parks—and every area that has a school.

We know where the bill would impact, but we do not know how many exclusions would be created, because that is a different process.

The Convener

I am conscious that we are still on our first question and that the panel has a lot more questions to answer. I invite Rod King to come in briefly, then we will move on to the next question.

Rod King

No member of the panel knows the answer to Jamie Greene’s question for the same reason that the Department for Transport, the UK Government, Transport Scotland and most local authorities do not know. The mix of restricted and non-restricted traffic regulation order roads has been built up over time and there is no central database. That is why we are ignorant.

10:30  



Jamie Greene

Is there no data? Has no one mapped the road mileage and what percentage is classified as restricted roads in any part of the UK?

Rod King

London has a public map of every road and every speed limit. There is no data for the rest of the country, but the DFT has an aspiration to do that.

The Convener

Instead of imposing a default national speed limit of 20mph on restricted roads, would it not be preferable to allow local authorities to impose 20mph speed limits where that is considered to be appropriate? That would flick it the other way around: instead of there being a default, local authorities would be allowed to make the decision. Perhaps Gavin Thomson wants to start off on that question.

Gavin Thomson

Sure. We have touched on local authorities having powers to create exemptions. The onus is on local authorities to implement 20mph limits, but the process is cumbersome; it takes a long time. The bill would speed up the process and be much more resource efficient.

It is about creating a norm, with a lower speed limit being that norm, rather than the exception. That is important for behaviour change and travel choices. Other panellists may want to touch on that point.

The Convener

I accept the point on the norm, but the bill could have simplified the process of giving roads 20mph limits. I know that Rod King wants to come in but, for balance, I ask Bruce Whyte to come in.

Bruce Whyte

The issue has an important inequalities angle. Scotland has a mixed bag of 20mph limits; some authorities—the City of Edinburgh Council, for example—have covered the city, and other cities have very few 20mph limits. There are casualties on 30mph roads; the bill would reduce the number of casualties and fatalities and increase levels of active travel, such as walking and cycling. There is inequality in the distribution of 20mph limits and there are higher levels of pedestrian casualties in more deprived areas.

Gavin Thomson’s point about social norms is really important. A national limit, albeit with exceptions that local authorities could dictate, would create a lower speed environment, which would be more considerate for all road users, particularly those who are vulnerable, such as pedestrians and cyclists who are most likely to be the casualties on 30mph roads.

The Convener

I will widen this out and bring in Peter Chapman, to ask his next question, which may allow Rod King to come in.

Peter Chapman

As an alternative to lowering the default speed limit to 20mph, the RAC has suggested the use of variable speed limits, with a 20mph limit during peak times only. In the scenario of driving through Edinburgh at 3 o’clock in the morning with no other cars about and nobody walking about, is it fair that the driver should be restricted to 20mph?

Rod King

That is a very big question. Would that approach be applied to motorways and rural roads or only to places where there are people—where a 20mph limit is appropriate and where people mix? The RAC suggestion does not stack up and would not be consistent with our broader range of speed limits. It would tend not to work, with people involved in interminable arguments about whether the limit should come in at 7 o’clock or 7.30 and so on. It is much clearer to say that a speed limit exists 24/7.

To come back to the question about letting local authorities continue to impose 20mph limits, such an approach treats the 20mph speed limit as the exception, rather than the rule. It continues the current situation, in which the public consensus is that we can drive at 30mph on most roads, with the exception of roads in a few odd local authorities that set the speed limit at 20mph. It endorses non-compliance and it is not a very smart approach. It is predominantly the approach in England, where 33 per cent of the population live in authorities with—more or less—a default 20mph limit, adjacent to authorities without a 20mph limit.

That is not a smart way to do it. The bill proposes a much smarter way, which is much more in line with what Scandinavian countries do. In Scandinavia, the default is 30kph, or 18.5mph, on most roads. There is both a social consensus and a civil liability consensus on that. If a driver is doing more than 25mph on a road with a 20mph limit, that driver is 100 per cent liable for the consequences of a crash, regardless of any negligence of the pedestrian. People who do not comply with the 20mph law can face sanctions under civil liability.

Mike Rumbles

I want to follow up on the discussion about taking a blanket approach rather than allowing local authorities to impose 20mph limits. I represent many people in rural Aberdeenshire, and the A roads that go through all the villages in rural Aberdeenshire will not be affected by the bill. However, committee members were told this morning at a technical briefing that every single road that leaves the main road will have to have signage to show the 20mph speed limit—that came as a surprise to me and, I think, to other members of the committee. The cost to Aberdeenshire Council alone will run to I do not know how much. Can you talk about the feasibility and cost of having a blanket approach across the country?

Rod King

The primary responsibility of local authorities when setting speed limits is to take into account the needs of vulnerable road users. I would ask whether that main road needs a 30mph or a 20mph limit. If 20mph is appropriate, the local authority can make a traffic regulation order to make the speed limit 20mph on that part of the road and then it will not need to put up any signs on the side roads.

The Convener

We will come back to the question about cost, because John Mason will ask more detailed questions about cost later.

Stewart Stevenson

I am not looking for a long answer to this question, just perhaps an indication of where to find the answer. Rod King said that a third of English authorities have, in essence, a blanket 20mph speed limit, which suggests that two thirds do not have that limit. Are there differential accident and health outcomes between the two groups of authorities? Is evidence available that can help us?

Professor Davis

I mentioned the evidence from towns and cities that have implemented the 20mph limit and done an evaluation. Bristol has done the most detailed evaluation, which has shown a reduction in deaths and serious and slight injuries. I also mentioned Warrington and Portsmouth in my submission, as well as the original data from Scotland.

We have good evidence that reducing the speed limit from 30mph to 20mph brings about a reduction in deaths and serious and slight injuries, if that is what you are asking, Mr Stevenson.

Stewart Stevenson

Forgive me—I accept that, but we know that authorities make different interventions to try to drive down accidents, so looking at what happens in one authority gives us only part of the answer. I was merely asking whether the shape of the graph in authorities that have not reduced the speed limit is different from the shape of the graph in authorities that have reduced it. It is not about comparing Bristol before implementation with Bristol after implementation; it is about comparing Bristol with Cheshire, for example.

Professor Davis

Absolutely. In a decent evaluation there must always be a comparator, to show what happens if the action is not taken. The calculations in “The Bristol Twenty Miles Per Hour Limit Evaluation (BRITE) Study” showed a drop, as was the case in Calderdale, relative to areas that did not implement the speed limit—all other things being equal, which is always the difficult issue.

Peter Chapman

I want to explore my question about variable speed limits a wee bit more, particularly with Mr Hay, because he said that it was important to drive according to the conditions. I remind the panel that the scenario is that somebody is driving at 3 o’clock in the morning in Edinburgh when there are no other cars about and nobody is walking. Is it fair to ask that driver to go at 20mph, or is it reasonable to say that 30mph would be perfectly okay at that time? It is about driving according to the conditions.

Stuart Hay

We have to consider the conditions at that time, when visibility is reduced because it is night-time, stopping distances are different and, on certain days of the week, people who have had a drink might be wandering around. A lot of factors need to be taken into account when the speed limit is brought in. Another point about variable speed limits is whether to sign those, which causes confusion for drivers. We need only to look at the problems that have been caused on bus lanes, which apply at different times in different places, and the controversy around that. We would be repeating that issue if there was a variable speed limit. It is much clearer to say that it is an urban area so the correct speed is 20mph.

Gavin Thomson

I was going to make a similar point. There will be pedestrians out and about in the middle of the night. There might not be many, but we can never predict where they will be and where they might need to get to. They deserve safe streets as much as someone who is walking about at peak time or rush hour.

Jamie Greene

I have a question that moves us in another direction, but I apologise if I go over some old ground first. No one is suggesting that night-time pedestrians should face less safe conditions than daytime pedestrians; the premise of Mr Chapman’s point is about taking a sensible approach to quiet roads and having speed restrictions that apply at different times of day depending on the conditions, which is a fair point to raise.

I want to go back to something that Mr Thomson said in answer to the convener’s question about the status quo in relation to exemptions versus what would happen in future. Am I correct that Mr Thomson said that it is a cumbersome or onerous process for local authorities to change a 30mph speed limit to 20mph?

Gavin Thomson

Yes.

Jamie Greene

What makes you think that the bill will change that? Can you point to the section of the bill that makes it clear that the process will be easier or less onerous? It is a one-page bill so that should be easy.

Gavin Thomson

What makes me say that is the pace of change for local authorities that have implemented 20mph limits; it has taken many years and has had to be done through a TRO. Simplifying the process, as the bill does, makes—

Jamie Greene

Sorry—how does the bill do that? Explain it to us in simple terms.

Gavin Thomson

I cannot do that—I am sorry.

Jamie Greene

Okay, fine. The point is that, compared with applying to change a 30mph limit to 20mph, the process for changing a 20mph limit to 30mph will be different. It is still unclear to me why it will be better and simpler. My question is open to anyone on the panel who wants to answer.

Stuart Hay

You gave the example of Edinburgh, where there are very few roads left with a limit of 30mph and it has, therefore, been deemed appropriate. Under the new bill, Edinburgh would concentrate on those streets, retaining them at 30mph, rather than dealing with all the streets that need to be 20mph. It would be a much shorter list of streets, which means that there would be less scope for objections, and the TRO process would work more easily in terms of advertising and so on.

Jamie Greene

It may be a question for the member in charge of the bill, but no one has really explained to me how the new process will differ technically from the current process. Edinburgh is a different example because it already has a blanket 20mph approach and therefore, by default, there are fewer roads to exempt.

On a scale from zero to 100 per cent, where zero would mean that no one applied for an exemption from the 20mph restriction to go back to 30mph and 100 per cent would mean that everyone applied for exemptions, does anyone have an idea of the volume of TROs that local authorities might need to move limits from 20mph to 30mph, compared with the existing volume of TROs to go from 30mph to 20mph?

10:45  



Rod King

Some answers to your questions are in the detail, which we do not have the data for. However, the experience of UK implementations is that about 80 per cent of the 30mph roads in an authority’s area get a 20mph limit. TROs must be made for every one of those roads and decisions must be made on where to put the required 20mph repeater signs on every one of those roads, which involves administrative and engineering work and outsourcing the engineering work. Appropriate consultation for a TRO must also be done. If a 20mph limit is to be successfully and effectively implemented across all areas, the media, social engagement and education must be done right.

All those things are imposed on a local authority when a 20mph limit is set as an exception to the national norm. If the national norm is changed, the situation will completely change. Instead of having to make TROs for 80 per cent of roads, a council will need to do them for probably 5 per cent of roads. Instead of looking at signage for 80 per cent of roads, a council will need to look at it for perhaps 5 per cent of roads. A local authority will be able to look at the best mix of engagement, including social media engagement and education, that relates to how the communities own the benefits and to the national consensus that 20mph is the right speed to do when in the presence of people.

Jamie Greene

I say with respect that you have changed the premise of the argument—your argument is volume based rather than process led. Arguing that the new process would be simpler is different from saying that, because fewer TROs would be required, the arrangements would by default be easier. You are saying not that the process would change but that the volume would differ.

Rod King

The volume would differ, but councils would not have to make exceptions to the national norm—they would be going with the flow.

Jamie Greene

Exceptions would have to be made. If a council currently wants a road to go from 30mph to 20mph, it seeks an exemption from the national limit, so it would surely have to go through an exemption process if the bill applied. If the blanket limit changed from 30mph to 20mph and a local authority wanted to change a road’s limit to 30mph—many local authorities might choose to do that—the authority would still have to go through an exemption process in the same way as it currently does. I cannot get my head round what would be different.

Rod King

Technically, there would be no difference, but the demand on local authority resources would be hugely different—we are talking about 5 per cent of roads instead of 80 per cent, which means that one sixteenth of the resources would be required.

Jamie Greene

That answers my original question—it is not the process but the volume that would change.

The Convener

I need to bring in other members, who are lining up. Richard Lyle has a question.

Richard Lyle

We are all talking about cars, but what about buses? In my area, buses run through housing estates. The bill would create a timetable problem for buses, as it would add to their journey time if they could only do 20mph, not 30mph. What would happen to bus timetables?

The Convener

Does anyone want to answer that question specifically? I am conscious that Rod King has been at the forefront of the argument.

Professor Davis

I will give a brief example from the city of Bristol, which I know in considerable detail. The main bus operator there is First, which opposed the 20mph programme when it started with a pilot, as in Edinburgh. However, analysis showed that it was not the speed limit but passengers boarding and buying tickets that delayed buses. First did not have to change its timetable.

The effect on average speed is relatively small. Some adjustments might be needed, but that issue is small relative to the delays from people boarding buses, which relate to ticket types.

Gavin Thomson

In areas where 20mph has been implemented, the flow of traffic has improved, so it is not necessarily true that journey times are longer. A bus’s top speed might be lower, but the overall journey time will not necessarily be longer.

Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

Some 20mph zones have been rolled out in Scotland, albeit in quite an inconsistent way. If the bill is not passed and we stick with the existing system, what progress can we make on 20mph zones in Scotland?

Bruce Whyte

As I said, there is a piecemeal approach in Scotland just now. If we want to lower the 30mph speed limits on restricted roads in our towns and cities, to save lives, to get more people walking and cycling and to enable people to feel that it is safe for their children to walk and cycle to school, doing it on a national basis would have a national public health impact. Scotland could be at the forefront of a public health intervention that could have an impact not unlike that of the smoking ban—it would be that large.

Rod King

The reality is that the Scottish Government is being asked what the right speed limit is for residential roads, and it is in a position to say whether that is 20mph or 30mph. If it decides against 20mph, it will be endorsing 30mph on every restricted road, unless the local authority thinks otherwise. It will be endorsing a national consensus that it is okay to drive at 28mph or 29mph in housing estates, high streets and other places where people want to walk and cycle, with all the consequences of those higher driving speeds. That will certainly have a negative effect on public health, as far as active travel is concerned, and on the liveability and wellbeing of Scottish communities.

Professor Davis

I reiterate what Rod King said. Scotland is leading in many ways. For example, it led on the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, and the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill is currently before the Parliament. Scotland has strong ambitions on improving population health by increasing physical activity.

A 20mph limit is necessary, although it might be insufficient on its own; other measures need to go with it. It is a great opportunity to help to address many of the problems that Scotland faces, and not implementing the approach would be a missed opportunity.

Finally, we know from the science—it is very clear—that driving at higher speeds kills more people. We have an opportunity to try to reduce the number of people who are killed or have life-changing injuries. That is a big, big opportunity for Scotland.

The Convener

That neatly brings us to the next line of questioning.

John Finnie

In their submissions, all the witnesses referred to road safety, for which I thank them. Professor Adrian Davis said:

“First, what is road safety? Road safety can be defined ... as ‘freedom from the liability of exposure to harm or injury on the highway’.”

He went on to say:

“This is in contrast to much of what is commonly misunderstood to be road safety. As researchers noted almost three decades ago, ‘road safety usually means the unsafety of the road transport system’. Road safety is more than about the avoidance of being injured. It must also address the perception of risk of harm and freedom from harm and its manifestation at the individual, community and societal levels.”

Will the panel talk about the road safety benefits that will accrue from the proposals in the bill?

The Convener

Adrian Davis, you started to answer that question in your previous answer, so I will come to you last. Rod King, do you want to respond? Please be brief, so that I can bring everyone in.

Rod King

There is a problem with what we mean by road safety—it means different things to different people. Community roads can become a lot safer if children do not walk or cycle to school. Does road safety include the fears of a parent about allowing their child to walk or cycle to school? Does road safety include the fears of the 75-year-old who normally walks to the shops once or twice a week but decides that the speed of traffic is such that they do not think they can get safely across the road any more? If children are no longer walking or cycling to school and elderly people are no longer going to the shops, that will reduce the number of casualties on the roads, but road safety has to be extended beyond those statistics. Communities and individuals have to feel more able to walk or cycle on the streets, and lowering the speed of traffic does that. As well as the strict casualty aspect of road safety, lowering the speed of traffic has huge benefits for wider aspects of road safety, including emissions, which I am sure Gavin Thomson will address.

Stuart Hay

We have to look at what is being done by the countries that are doing best on road safety. They take a safe systems approach: accidents will happen and mistakes will be made, so it is about asking what factors deliver bad outcomes. One of those factors is speed, so, if you can eliminate that as a factor, you will get better outcomes for road safety.

Scotland is trying to move in that direction, and we are about to review our road safety framework. Progress has been really good, but that progress is plateauing and the 20mph limit is one of the few big-ticket items left in the locker that we could deploy to improve those statistics. That is what we need to do as a nation.

Bruce Whyte

We have all been involved in studies or have quoted studies that have shown reductions in the number of road casualties because of 20mph limits. There are various examples from Bristol and other cities across the UK. Those statistics are based on the number of police-recorded casualties, and we know that the police underrecord casualties.

A recent paper by Rachel Aldred suggests that the number of casualties on the roads is five times higher than the number of police-recorded casualties. Those unrecorded casualties were probably more minor, and speed might not have been a factor in all of them, but it is about safety and the perception of safety on our streets.

If we feel that our streets are safer, we are more likely to be out on those streets, we are more likely to cycle on those streets and we are more likely to allow our children to walk or cycle to school. Some of the estimates of the casualty reductions underestimate that aspect. It gets into the area of how we become a more active nation as well.

The Convener

Adrian Davis, I will bring you in. I will not bring in Gavin Thomson at this point, because I think he will be the first to respond to the next question.

Professor Davis

I echo what Rod King has said. One way of addressing road safety is through fear. If we just remove pedestrians and cyclists from the roads, which is what has happened increasingly over recent decades, we can achieve the casualty reduction targets. Traditional road safety practitioners will say that that is fine, but it is not fine if we want to achieve the important public health outcomes and the climate targets that we need to achieve.

Other aspects relate to social inclusion. Stuart Hay mentioned that people feel they are no longer able to go out—that is what we call community severance. An example of that is when someone in their 70s feels that they cannot get across the road and is fearful of the environment out there—they are fearful that people are driving too fast and they are walking too slowly.

A whole welter of benefits come from slower speeds, including a reduction in the number of casualties and in the associated misery and suffering, which, in turn, leads to savings to the national health service. However, the benefits go well beyond the traditional road safety concept; it is about freedom from fear.

11:00  



John Finnie

I thank the panel for those answers. In your replies, some of you alluded to something that also features in all your responses—active travel and its potential. The written submission from 20’s Plenty for Us states:

“Look at any city/place that has successfully encouraged active travel and you will find low speed limits of 20mph or 30kmh on most streets.”

I understand that, if people were confident to walk and cycle on the streets, there would be an increase in their doing so. Has any assessment of that been made, or are you able to quantify from experience elsewhere what the increase in active travel would be as a result of any reduction in the speed limit?

Rod King

One of the issues is that a 20mph limit is not a silver bullet for active travel. No one expects a big change, but a 20mph limit is a foundation for active travel. It provides a foundation for all the other initiatives on active travel that are going to be taken, such as cycle training, making dangerous junctions better, creating better off-route cycle paths and better walking facilities, having wider pavements or whatever. That is what happens when, as I mentioned, there is an approach to the community and it is told that active travel will be made easier.

Having a 20mph limit is one of the things that is done, although it is never done in isolation, which makes it a little hard to quantify the difference that it makes to active travel. Professor Davis will probably have more to say on that.

The Convener

I promised Gavin Thomson that I would let him in now, so I will make good my promise.

Gavin Thomson

I am checking my notes. A study came out last year that looked at 20mph zones in London, which showed that 5 per cent of the residents who were surveyed said that they were walking more and 2 per cent said that they were cycling more. Given those statistics, if we expand 20mph limits so that they are the norm, I think that we can expect the figures to rise. Creating behaviour change is about people seeing it, demonstrating it in their communities and gradually, over time, changing their travel choices.

Bruce Whyte

I will give you a specific example of that. Prior to the introduction of Edinburgh’s 20mph limit, a 20mph limit was piloted in south-central Edinburgh—members might be aware of that. There were before-and-after surveys of residents that involved over 1,000 households; I will give some of the statistics from those surveys. The percentage of children who walked to school increased marginally from 63 per cent to 65 per cent, and the percentage of older primary school children who were allowed to play unsupervised outside their home, on the pavement or in the street, rose from 31 per cent to 66 per cent. When people considered how safe their street was, the percentage of people who felt that speeds were safe increased from 71 per cent to 78 per cent. The number of people who considered traffic speeds in their local area to be safe improved, the proportion of children who cycled to school increased from 4 per cent to 12 per cent, and overall support for the 20mph speed limit increased from 68 per cent to 79 per cent. That is a specific example from south-central Edinburgh.

Richard Lyle

No one in the room can dispute that reducing the speed limit would be an improvement. We know that speed kills—that is accepted. Mr King talked about drivers not knowing what the speed limit is on a particular road, but most new cars show the speed limit on their dashboard, which tells the driver whether they are in a 30mph zone or a 40mph zone.

The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee recently carried out a piece of work on air pollution. Air quality is important to people. In its submission, Living Streets Scotland says:

“Evidence on carbon reduction and air pollution is mixed and inconclusive”.

Gavin Thomson of Friends of the Earth Scotland says:

“Reducing the speed limit would improve the flow of traffic, reduce congestion and emissions”.

However, the RAC, which has been called the motorist’s friend, says that

“the potential impact on urban congestion from reduced speeds and the inevitable longer journey times may increase emissions.”

What impact will reducing the default speed limit on restricted roads to 20mph have on vehicle emissions and on local air pollution? Can you highlight any relevant research in the area that might be of interest to the committee?

The Convener

I will let Gavin Thomson and Stuart Hay answer that question first, given that their organisations have been quoted.

Gavin Thomson

I will talk about the research in a moment. As I have mentioned, the evidence base suggests that 20mph limits improve traffic flow and—importantly, from an air pollution point of view—result in less stop-starting and less acceleration and deceleration. That means less particulate pollution. Particulates are tiny particles that cause a lot of damage when you breathe them in and, indeed, a lot of the air pollution work that we do focuses on particulate matter. When there is less acceleration and deceleration, and less stop-starting of traffic, there is a lot less particulate pollution and an improvement in air quality.

Studies that I would point to include that of the transport and environmental analysis group in 2013, which showed the reduction in NOx as a result of 20mph drive cycles. The evidence on PM10 is a bit more mixed, but I would point to a 2017 study on 20mph speed limits in Wales, which found that improvements in traffic flow led to decreased particulate pollution—in other words, decreased air pollution.

Stuart Hay

I would probably cite Edinburgh as a good example. It has a 20mph speed limit, and I do not think that there has been any real problem with air pollution getting worse. I believe that the situation is gradually improving, and it has not been affected by the 20mph limit.

Looking to the future, I think that one of the main sources of air pollution will be particulates from braking. When you drive at 20mph, you do not brake as hard, and that means that we start to bring down the level of particulates. Moreover, there will be increasing use of hybrid vehicles, which, because they run at lower speeds, will result in lower emissions. In the future, air quality measures will be complemented by a 20mph speed limit, and I think that such an approach is really going to work. The fact is that not many studies have been done on the matter, but we should not just assume that the situation will be worse. After all, it is all about how people drive their vehicles.

The Convener

Mike Rumbles has a supplementary question.

Mike Rumbles

Indeed, convener, and it is on that very point. Both Stuart Hay and Gavin Thomson have—quite rightly—mentioned particulate emissions and how they are lower at 20mph, but what most people think about is exhaust emissions. The SPICe briefing that we have been given says:

“Detailed research conducted for the Corporation of the City of London concluded that exhaust emissions are broadly similar with either a 30mph limit or a 20mph limit”.

Do you wish to comment on that?

Gavin Thomson

I am familiar with that study, which points to the evidence being a bit mixed with regard to the difference between limits of 20mph and 30mph. It depends on the car and whether it uses petrol or diesel. However, what we would stress in drawing out any conclusions is that the study does not necessarily relate to people’s driving styles, which will change when the speed limit changes. I think that it is based on drive-cycle exhaust emissions, which are more laboratory tested. When the speed limit is reduced, driving patterns tend to change, with less acceleration and deceleration and, indeed, less fuel consumption, which also impacts on exhaust emissions.

Rod King

The background to this is the fact that most fuel consumption and emissions come from acceleration and from, if you like, replacing deceleration. Going at a constant 20mph, most vehicles will get about 90 miles to the gallon, which tells you how much fuel that they are using in that steady state. The Imperial College London report showed that the evidence was mixed. With petrol cars there was a slight increase in NOx and PM10 emissions, whereas in diesel cars there was a slight decrease.

However, NOx and PM10 emissions from diesel vehicles are 10 times higher than those from petrol vehicles, so the 8 per cent saving on emissions from diesel engines is very beneficial in comparison with the slight increase in emissions from petrol engines. We calculated that, on that basis and given the mix of diesel and petrol vehicles on the road, the reduction in emissions from setting a 20mph limit is equivalent to taking half the petrol cars off the road completely. That gives the committee an idea of the reduction in emissions. An important point is that the Imperial College London report said categorically that moving to a 20mph limit would not increase emissions.

Peter Chapman

When a modern car travels at a steady 30mph, it uses less fuel than when it runs at 20mph. That is a fact—I am sure that it is correct. I have seen figures that show that fuel consumption is 10 per cent higher at a steady 20mph than at a steady 30mph, because the car is in a lower gear at 20mph.

The Convener

Does anyone want to respond to that? Rod King could come back in, but I promised to call Adrian Davis, so I will be in trouble if I do not let him in.

Professor Davis

I do not want to break the flow, but I would like to bring in a point about social norms.

The Convener

Rod King can respond to Peter Chapman and then I will bring in Adrian Davis.

Rod King

I have a degree in automobile engineering, so I always enjoy such questions. Tests have shown that whether fuel consumption at a steady speed of 30mph differs from that at 20mph all depends on the gearing for most cars, but the difference is marginal. None of us gets 90 miles per gallon from our cars, because we use the most fuel not in keeping going at the same speed but in accelerating and decelerating.

The slight variation between steady-state fuel consumption at 20mph and consumption at 30mph is not pertinent at all to the effect on emissions, which comes from taking out all the acceleration from 20mph to 30mph. We should bear in mind that twice as much energy is used to reach 30mph as is used to reach 20mph.

The Convener

I call Claudia Beamish.

Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab)

Thank you, convener—I appreciate that. I declare an interest as a co-convener of the cross-party group on cycling, walking and buses. I ask any panel member who feels that it is appropriate to answer to give their view on the impact of an increase in active travel on air pollution emissions or greenhouse gas emissions.

The Convener

I stopped Adrian Davis before, so it is his turn now.

Professor Davis

I still have a point to make about social norms, if I can fit it in.

Emissions are a really interesting area, in which there is a disconnect between public understanding and the science. Time and again, European studies have shown that, particularly in urban environments, where pollution is most intense, the pollution is concentrated inside vehicles. That is an interesting point that must be unpacked because of the lack of understanding—people think that they are protected in their new cars, but they are not.

The pollution level drops significantly away from the centre of the carriageway, where it peaks. Pedestrians get the least pollution and cyclists get a bit more. In urban areas, most of the pollution is in vehicles, and the lack of knowledge about that is interesting. As I say, the fall away in pollution is significant. Someone who is on the top deck of a bus experiences less pollution than someone who is on the lower deck—that is how fast the pollution falls away.

Exposure is a serious issue. Active travellers still experience pollution, but the science is clear that the cardiovascular benefits of being physically active—as well as the benefits for mental health and wellbeing—are much more significant than the risk to health from pollution. That has been studied many times in the peer-reviewed literature.

The Convener

I return to Richard Lyle for a follow-up question before we move on.

Richard Lyle

Given the uncertainty about the emissions impact of the proposed 20mph speed limit, can the panel members set out why they think that the benefits outweigh concerns about air pollution? Do you all honestly think that a 20mph speed limit would improve traffic flow—seriously?

The Convener

Richard, you will have to apologise to Jamie Greene later for taking his question.

11:15  



Rod King

The 20mph speed limit should reduce emissions. There is evidence that when speeds are reduced and controlled, rather than when it is a free-for-all, you get more traffic through. I have read that the ideal speed is actually 17mph in networks where there are a lot of junctions with incoming traffic and so on. Of course, it is well known that if you want to get more traffic on the M25, for example, you reduce the speed limit, because that allows you to get more throughflow. Basically, when you have congested conditions, reducing the speed enables you to get more throughflow.

Stuart Hay

We need to consider that one of the biggest barriers to walking and cycling is to do with perceptions of safety. If you improve people’s perceptions of safety, they will walk and cycle more and drive less, so there will be fewer cars on the road. The cars that remain will be more efficient because there are fewer of them, and there will be less congestion, so you get a virtuous circle. However, you will not get that virtuous circle unless you can change perceptions of safety. To do that, you need the 20mph limit to begin with.

Professor Davis

We should try to keep in mind that this is not only a road safety intervention but a behaviour change intervention. Human beings do not like changing their behaviour, so it will take time. It will also take time to create a new social norm, but it will happen. We saw it happen with drink-driving, which was perfectly acceptable in the 1970s—now you are a social outcast if you drink and drive. We have to move to such a position with speed, so that it is no longer acceptable for people to break the speed limit. We can create a new social norm, which would help to achieve compliance with the 20mph limit—that was the subject of one of the consultation questions. It would also require some enforcement and campaign activities, which I would label as social marketing. If we do that, as Stuart Hay said, we get the modal shift that we want, which releases the public health benefits.

Bruce Whyte

I will take the discussion back to safety. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, the World Health Organization, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Faculty of Public Health all support 30kmh—which is equivalent to slightly less than 20mph—or 20mph as a safe speed on urban roads, particularly where there could be conflict between cars and walkers, cyclists and other vulnerable road users.

NICE also publishes guidance on air pollution, and in that guidance it strongly supports 20mph limits for smooth driving and speed reduction.

Gavin Thomson

The picture for exhaust emissions if we change the 30mph limit to 20mph might be mixed or have a degree of nuance, but when we look at air pollution as a whole, including tyre wear and brake wear, it is pretty clear that 20mph limits would improve air quality.

On the question of traffic flow, the evidence base is pretty clear that 20mph—or 30kmh—reduces idle times and gear changing and the accelerations and decelerations that we have discussed.

The Convener

I am afraid that we have to move on to the next question now, which is from Maureen Watt.

Maureen Watt

My question is on the social benefits. There were comments in the written evidence that reducing the speed limit on restricted roads to 20mph would increase the liveability of neighbourhoods, particularly for residents and local businesses. Can you expand on what that means, exactly? Does it mean that children will be playing football across the road? I am all for residents and pedestrians reclaiming streets, but what exactly are the social benefits of this measure and what tangible differences will we see in our streets?

The Convener

I will start off with Stuart Hay, as this seems to be his area.

Stuart Hay

The 20mph limit is part of the wider picture as well as an essential ingredient in how we change our streets. It changes the feel of our streets; people are happier to spend more time in them, especially in the town centres; and there is not as much traffic noise or as much of a perception of danger. However, we have some way to go before we see kids playing in the streets. I do not think that a 20mph limit will do that on its own, but I think that it is a step towards it.

The Convener

I will bring in Rod King, and I will then have to go to the next question, I am afraid.

Rod King

This is important, because what we are talking about are the public spaces between buildings that we call streets. We must not forget that they are public spaces.

There is very clear evidence from Donald Appleyard in America and Josh Hart in Bristol on how dependent community cohesiveness and communications are on the traffic conditions on roads that separate the people in communities and how they affect their ability to visit neighbours, walk to the shops and, indeed, be in the community as a person. When you walk, you talk to people. This approach makes a very beneficial change in the cohesiveness of communities and how people feel about them; indeed, the Appleyard research quite clearly shows that increased traffic leads to reduced communication between neighbours and less of that collective community feeling. If we can get lower speeds and thereby do something that is symbolic of making communities better, it will help.

The Convener

Thank you. The next question is from the deputy convener, Gail Ross.

Gail Ross

I want to cover two areas, but I have been told that I need to roll them into one question to save time. I apologise, therefore, because that question might be a long one.

I want to ask about awareness raising and enforcement. Evidence that we have received suggests that awareness raising should be along the lines of the drink-driving campaign, with the focus on social stigma and the like, but obviously the safety and environmental aspects need to be highlighted, too. What form should an awareness-raising campaign take?

On enforcement, we are obviously—or, I should say, maybe—going to get people who say, “I wasn’t aware of the speed limit.” There will be an implementation period to allow local authorities to get the signs in place, but how should the police handle any such instances that might arise during—or, indeed, after—that implementation period?

The Convener

I am not sure how strictly the police are enforcing the 20mph speed limit around Edinburgh, but perhaps someone will bring that up in their response. Who would like to kick off?

Rod King

I will cover the enforcement issue. In that respect, we can look at best and worst practice around the UK. Worst practice is for the chief constable to say, “We’re not going to enforce 20mph limits,” because that sends out a huge message to non-compliers not only that they are not going to get caught but that it is not a proper speed limit in the first place.

The level beyond that worst practice would be some form of enforcement. In other words, the speed limit would be seen as just another speed limit; it could be any road anywhere, but the limit, whatever it was, would be enforced.

Then there is the kind of best practice followed by, for example, Avon and Somerset Police. First of all, it has 20mph speed awareness courses, and when it puts people on such a course, the administrative fee that it gets from attendees helps to pay for the enforcement process. It also publishes where the speed camera sites are going to be each week, and they cover 20, 30 and 40mph sites. That sort of approach spreads a consensus that 20mph limits are being enforced just like any other limit.

It is not a case of having a policeman on every corner. It is about establishing something that I would say is not just a social consensus but an establishment consensus, under which people know that 20mph is the legal limit and that if they get caught breaking it, they will face a restriction by way of a course or a fixed-penalty notice. That is the experience that we have.

The Convener

Rod, can you please clarify whether you are suggesting that speed awareness courses—which I do not think are available yet in Scotland—would be good practice? Is that right?

Rod King

I am saying that they are part of a method that is used in some places in England in order to impose a restriction on someone without necessarily putting points on their licence, if that is appropriate. Yes, it can be done.

The other option is that the police can delegate responsibility for enforcement to local authorities or other agencies, which has been explored in some areas.

The Convener

Until you said “yes”, I thought that you were going to give a politician’s answer.

Professor Davis

I will come back to my point that introducing a 20mph limit is a behaviour change intervention, as well as a road safety intervention. One example is the Think! drink-driving campaign, which has been running for decades and is trying to relieve the scourge of drink-driving. West Midlands Police provide a really good example, which I cited in my written submission. Although they are a relatively small force, their tactic is to deliberately go out and make a lot of noise in communities. They often go round school areas and other population-specific settings and deliberately book people for speeding and other infringements. In the case of a school area, they will tell the headteacher and ask them to put it out through their social media networks. They create a dialogue and cause quite a bit of noise for those people who say that the police should be out catching real criminals. They will explain exactly why someone is a criminal as a result of the action that they have been caught doing. That approach creates a consensus that the police are out there and it means that, with the level of capacity that the police have, they can create the impression that someone will be caught if they speed.

We need more police enforcement, but there needs to be a bigger discussion, which probably requires more time than we have in this evidence session, about a national awareness campaign and the constituent ingredients of that campaign, which, as I have mentioned before, need to have a strong social marking element of what people gain and what we take away. We take away a person’s right to drive at 30mph, but with a 20mph limit there are a lot of benefits, which we have talked about. Studies across the UK, such as the British social attitudes survey, consistently show that there is clear majority support for 20mph.

John Mason

I am interested in the financial memorandum and some of the costs of all this. I realise that that might not be the panel’s specialist subject, but it is connected to some of the questions that Mike Rumbles asked. The financial memorandum specifically mentions Angus, so I had a quick look on Google at Brechin. The A935 runs through Brechin and, as the bill stands, the speed limit would be 30mph. I counted at least 40 side roads that would all need to be in a 20mph zone, and there would be a 30mph zone around all those roads. There is a considerable cost to that and the council has made an estimate of the cost. Presumably, it would be cheaper to have only 20mph zones around the town, and for every road in the town to stay at 20mph. In many ways that would be simpler for people to understand, because otherwise a child who was playing in one street would not know that the next street had a different speed limit, for example. Would that be cheaper to implement and easier for people to understand? Why are we looking only at restricted roads for the purposes of the 20mph limit?

Stuart Hay

There is no reason why we should not be looking to bring some of the high streets that are part of the trunk road network down to 20mph. To be honest, Transport Scotland has attempted to do that, but it has faced the challenge that the local authority would have to bring down the speed limits on all the side streets. The problem is almost reversed. If Transport Scotland and councils worked together, we could make the change cheaply—that is the whole point; Transport Scotland would not exactly have to make a policy change.

Your point is valid. The bill would introduce an approach that was cheaper overall than making all the different orders would be. We would end up with fewer signs, rather than more signs, if we planned implementation on a network basis as a national programme. If changing the speed limit was a national initiative, there would also be an onus on the national Government to bear some costs.

11:30  



John Mason

To play devil’s advocate on my point, would the transport industry oppose 20mph zones on major routes through small towns?

Stuart Hay

The sections of road that are involved are relatively short, and such limits have been introduced before. What is proposed is not new, but doing it has been technically difficult. There is support in communities for 20mph limits. Most of the time, the average speeds on shopping streets where vehicles are loading and there are pedestrian crossings are not particularly high, so the impacts on businesses would probably be marginal.

Rod King

The beauty of the bill is that it is set at the optimum level, which addresses restricted roads and leaves it to local authorities to decide on A and B roads. That provides the flexibility that is needed. The bill combines national consistency with local flexibility, which is really good.

If the bill was the other way round and proposed to change the speed limit on all roads in urban or village environments to 20mph, the committee would ask different questions about whether that was appropriate. The bill achieves a fine balance and I commend it for that.

John Mason

That is fine. When Mark Ruskell appears as a witness, I will follow up the point with him.

I have another question on costs. The financial memorandum refers to a cost of £1 million to £2 million for removing repeater signs. I understand that present regulations say that repeater signs cannot be erected for whatever the default speed limit is but that if the speed limit is not the default—if it is 20mph or 40mph—repeater signs are needed.

The community councils in my area often ask for repeater signs. The Clyde Gateway, which is a new dual carriageway in my area, is a big sweeping road that looks and feels as if it should have a 40mph or 50mph limit, but its limit is 30mph. People have asked for repeater signs there, but the council says that it cannot put them in.

Should we change the rule about repeater signs? That would save us quite a lot of money, because the City of Edinburgh Council could leave all its 20mph signs up.

The Convener

I am not sure whether John Mason is suggesting that he could become a middle man for the City of Edinburgh Council to sell on its repeater signs.

Rod King

John Mason raises technical issues that relate to the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions, which are different from the guidance on setting speed limits. The TSRGD has had numerous changes over the years.

Repeater signs are required when the national speed limit does not apply. If the national speed limit changed, 20mph repeater signs would not be needed on restricted roads, but repeater signs would be needed on 30mph dual carriageways, where the national speed limit would no longer apply. There are opportunities, because the position in the TSRGD has been relaxed, and the number of repeater signs is now at the local authority’s discretion.

John Mason

Does the local authority have discretion over the number of repeater signs, whether it has them, or both?

Rod King

At least one sign is needed in an area—the issue is obscure—but the TSRGD does not necessarily say how many are needed, as long as drivers know what the speed limit is.

Other countries do not have repeater signs, which are a UK phenomenon. We keep on reminding drivers of the limit because they are not smart enough to know whether the limit is 30mph or 20mph.

John Mason

This proposal will complicate it, will it not? At the moment, if you are driving in Glasgow you assume that you are in a 30mph-limit area, but under the plan there will be confusion because some roads will have a 30mph limit and some will have a 20mph limit.

Rod King

There can be simplifications. You will have to look at changing the TSRGD, because in some places it refers to not having repeater signs on 30mph roads, and it conflates that with roads that are subject to the national speed limit. Some changes will be required anyway. That would allow you to say that where you have 20mph or 30mph roads, it does not matter if you have 20mph repeater signs and that you can leave them in. The detail of that could be worked out and addressed by a statutory instrument, rather than by legislation.

John Mason

I accept that. That is great. Thank you.

Colin Smyth

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities says that the current budget going through Parliament is a £147 million cash cut for local authorities. The Scottish Parliament information centre says that it is a £230 million real-terms cut for local authorities. Nobody believes that the Government will hand local authorities an extra £20 million to pay for this proposal. Do you think that it is fair to ask local authorities to pick up the bill for it? I will play devil’s advocate by asking whether that is local authorities’ priority and what you think should be cut. Do you think that what is proposed is the most effective road safety investment that local authorities could make?

The Convener

Gosh, that was quite a subjective question.

Professor Davis

I will try to answer Mr Smyth’s question. He asked whether the proposal would be the most effective intervention. We have already had a debate about that in the wider literature. Yes, in terms of cost to the nation, it looks like one of the most effective interventions that we could make to try to reduce casualties.

I remind you at national Parliament level to consider that the value of a statistical life is more than £1.8 million—that is the cost if you kill someone on the road. That is a crude assessment, of course—it does not include misery, loss and all the other things that are not easily quantifiable.

There are big savings for the national health service. That is a question that needs to be addressed at national level. Given that there are savings to the national health service—which we can estimate from the studies that have already been done—could money from NHS budgets be crossed over to help the implementation of the 20mph programme? I know that my NHS director colleagues would not like to hear that, but it is a viable suggestion and the question should be asked.

Bruce Whyte

I will duck the question about who should pay for this, but it is clear that there would be up-front costs of having more signage and changing signage. However, over the piece, if we see reductions in casualties and fatalities, which we might expect year on year, there would be a long-term benefit in the savings we would make from that, and there would be public health benefits to having a slightly more active population. This intervention is not the only thing that we need to do to improve physical activity and health in Scotland, but, given that we are building pedestrianised areas and segregated routes, it will help by making people think that it is safe to use them—it will improve the effectiveness of some of those other schemes.

Maureen Watt

The financial memorandum says that the annual cost to local authorities in the first two years will be £9 million to £10 million. In its submission, Aberdeenshire Council—I represent part of Aberdeenshire—says that it will cost it £0.5 million. Half a million pounds times 32 local authorities is £16 million. Is the figure therefore not grossly underestimated? Where did it come from?

Stuart Hay

I did not prepare that figure, but the proposal will affect local authorities in different ways, depending on what level of progress they have already made on 20mph limits. Some local authorities, such as Glasgow City Council, which is rolling out the measure, will see a saving if they have a programme already—they will be able to do it more cheaply and efficiently. For local authorities that have not done anything or that have a very small network, it will cost them a lot more money in the short term, but even they will benefit because it is the cheapest and most efficient way of rolling out the limit. National Government needs to stump up and contribute if it wants to deliver the road safety framework. This is a national initiative that will deliver national benefits. There are not a lot of things left in the locker, and this is one of the cost-effective options for the Government to tap into.

The Convener

In rural constituencies where there are lots of trunk roads, it will be a big problem.

Jamie Greene

I want to follow on from Maureen Watt’s line of questioning. I have had specific conversations with many local authorities about this, among other transport issues, and they are gravely concerned about the potential costs of it.

The financial memorandum states that some of the total cost will be offset by fine income. That is an odd stance to take, because we do not know what that income will be. It is also predicated on the assumption that people will break the law, which is not an entirely positive view. How can we come up with proper conjectures as to the cost of this to local authorities and other agencies, including courts, the Government, the Crown Office and the police, which we have not taken into account? Surely we should be able to come up with a total figure on this to show us the scale of it.

The Convener

That might be a question that the member in charge will have to answer. I am happy to bring in Rod King briefly, and then I am afraid that we will have to draw this session to a close, because we are very short of time.

Rod King

Some of the details will get resolved when local authorities start to look at the proposal and start to exercise their options in deciding whether to keep a main road a 30mph road or make it a 20mph road. Those questions are for further down the line. For UK implementation today, we are talking about £3 to £4 per head of population for implementing authority-wide 20mph limits. That is seen as very good value. You have a great opportunity to load that to national Government as well as local government and make efficiency savings by doing it in a nationally co-ordinated way. That is a very positive opportunity to get the best value for money from what is recognised to be the right thing to do.

The Convener

That is probably a good place to stop, on the basis that members will get the opportunity to talk to local authorities and the police as part of our evidence sessions. I thank all the panel members for coming and I hope that they all got the chance to put their points of view across. I will now suspend the meeting for five minutes.

Stewart Stevenson

Just before you do, convener, I point out that I failed to include in my declaration of interests my membership of the Institute of Advanced Motorists.

The Convener

Okay. I will now suspend the meeting. I ask members to be back here at 11:47, please.

11:42 Meeting suspended.  



11:49 On resuming—  



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Second meeting transcript

The Convener (Edward Mountain)

Good morning and welcome to the sixth meeting in 2019 of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. I ask everyone to ensure that mobile phones are on silent.

Agenda item 3 is the Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill. This is our second evidence-taking session on the bill, and we will take evidence from motoring, road and passenger organisations. I welcome Neil Greig, policy and research director, IAM RoadSmart; Paul White, deputy director, Confederation of Passenger Transport Scotland; Tony Kenmuir, chairman, Scottish Taxi Federation; Martin Reid, policy director, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Road Haulage Association; and Eric Bridgstock, independent road safety researcher, on behalf of the Alliance of British Drivers.

For the benefit of those of you who have not given evidence before, I should say that members will ask a series of questions and, if you would like to come in, you should try to catch my eye. I will not necessarily get you in on every single question—there are quite a lot of you—but I will do my utmost to do so. Do not touch any of the buttons in front of you as they will be operated for you. Keep your eye on me once you start talking because, sometimes, when you get passionately involved in a subject, you may wander on for a bit, so if you see me wagging my pen, it probably means that you ought to come to the end. The pen can fly out of my hand to attract your attention if you are not paying attention. Hopefully, you will all get a chance to come in.

Before we go any further, I invite members to declare any relevant interests.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I draw attention to an entry in my register of interests, which shows that I am a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists—now known as IAM RoadSmart.

The Convener

As no other members have made a declaration, we will move on to the first question, from Gail Ross.

Gail Ross (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)

We have some of your written evidence, but could you briefly outline whether you support the move from 30mph to 20mph on restricted roads, and give us the reasoning behind your answer?

Neil Greig (IAM RoadSmart)

We do not support the bill because of the blanket nature of its intention to change everything in an unfocused way. We are not against a 20mph limit where it is required—that limit is very popular on roads outside schools. A few years ago, we did a survey of several thousand drivers, and 49 per cent said that they could not support 20mph becoming the new 30mph; 21 per cent said that they could support that; and a big chunk in the middle, about 20 per cent, said that they did not know yet.

There is no huge anti-20mph feeling among drivers, but the approach in the bill is too broad brush. If you have an issue with a street and you want to change behaviour, you have to change the look and feel of that street. The evidence from the Department for Transport and from various studies is quite clear: just putting up signs—Edinburgh is perhaps an example of that—does not have a huge impact on behaviour.

A number of studies have come out recently, such as the Atkins study down south, all saying basically the same thing: a 20mph limit without changing the character of a road does not really change driver behaviour. We would rather see a targeted approach, not a blanket approach.

Paul White (Confederation of Passenger Transport)

The CPT’s membership is divided on the issue. I think that all our members are supportive of the bill’s aims. For some members, particularly urban operators, getting to 20mph, never mind 30mph, is aspirational. Other members are worried about the impacts on their business, particularly in marginal services, where an increase in journey times could lead to reduced patronage and make a service non-viable.

There is a bit of a mix of views, but we support the bill’s aims. Perhaps elements can be changed—either in the supplementary guidance or in the bill itself—that would make the legislation more palatable to more of our members.

Tony Kenmuir (Scottish Taxi Federation)

I speak for just over 23,000 public hire taxi drivers. I have not seen a single response in favour of the bill. Having said that, I highlight that the responses are generally supportive of 20mph where it is appropriate.

The feeling is—I imagine that this will be a very consistent message—that the blanket approach is likely to cause a lack of compliance. There is a likelihood of increased compliance if the 20mph limit is applied specifically where required.

Martin Reid (Road Haulage Association)

Our position is very similar to that of the other panellists. Our members’ response has been along the lines of objecting to having a blanket approach. Nobody has a problem in principle with 20mph speed limits, if they are used to protect the vulnerable and where there are known hot spots and problem areas. It is the blanket nature that people find unpalatable rather than the 20mph limit itself.

Eric Bridgstock

I make it clear that I am here today because the ABD has not got anyone who could be here today. I am an independent in this field. ABD contacted me last week on the basis that it knew that I had done work on this issue in the past.

Neither ABD nor I support 20mph limits generally on the basis that there is no evidence at all that that makes anything safer from a casualty point of view or in relation to collisions. In fact, it makes things worse, because people are lulled into a false sense of security on the road if they are walking or whatever. There are lots of other reasons in addition to that, which I am sure that we will go into later.

Stewart Stevenson

I have just heard almost every witness use the term “blanket nature” in relation to the ban. In fact, the bill applies to “restricted roads”. In other words, it does not apply to anything that is an A or a B road; essentially, it applies to the housing estates and the side roads off main roads. I wonder whether, in making the comment “blanket nature”, the witnesses are talking about what the bill says, or whether they are making a more general objection to a universal 20mph limit in all urban areas. I want that to be clear, particularly in relation to IAM’s survey. Was that in the context of this bill’s limited objective or in the context of, basically, all roads in urban areas?

Neil Greig

It was in the context of all roads in urban areas. The survey question was:

“do you agree or disagree that all current 30mph limits should be replaced with a 20mph limit?”

Stewart Stevenson

Right. That is what I thought.

Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

I think that Stewart Stevenson is slightly misdirecting the panel. The bill applies not only to urban roads but to all our villages in our country areas. A 30mph road through a village is not affected, but every road and lane off that road would be a restricted road. It applies not only to urban areas but to rural areas

Stewart Stevenson

Correct.

Gail Ross

It is correct that the bill applies only to restricted roads. Some local authorities already have 20mph limits outside schools and in certain housing estates and areas like that, as has been mentioned by panellists. Variable speed limits at different times of the day were mentioned in our previous evidence session on the bill. Is that possible, or is it just confusing?

Paul White

I will answer with our experience of bus lanes. If speeds are varied, it muddies the water. We have lobbied in Edinburgh for set times—for example, 7 am to 7 pm, seven days a week—so that people know that the time is set. If you are looking for a mindset change, it would help if you make it as easy as possible to comply. If you were to set different times, I worry that it would add to confusion and create a lack of compliance.

Tony Kenmuir

A 24/7/365 approach is possibly more of an issue for us, because there are taxi drivers across the nation driving at all times of the day and night. Driving at 20mph on a dual carriageway with no other vehicle in sight for a mile in front and a mile behind does not make any sense to anybody. We are in favour of a timed approach. However, I am inclined to agree with the point about bus lanes. Nobody uses them at any time—everybody moving to the left because a clock has changed does not happen and is never likely to.

The signage in the RAC report looks very practical and is a much better solution than a 24/7/365 approach to 20mph limits.

Neil Greig

We can get hung up on fixed speed limits. Other parts of Europe use variable limits; France, for example, varies the speed limit with the weather. The issue is that roads should be self-explaining. If you have to put in extra technology to explain why the limit is there, you have lost the narrative. It should be clear to people why they should do that speed at that time, whether it is because pedestrians are there or because of the nature of the road. That goes back to the concept that there will be an issue in convincing people about a change in speed limit if the character of the road has not changed. In addition, the technology would be very expensive.

The Convener

Eric Bridgstock wanted to come in.

Eric Bridgstock

Drivers need to be told about hazards—such as a school—but they do not need to be told what speed to go. I have seen no evidence that a 20mph limit is positive. It makes things worse from a safety point of view. Signs can come on to say “Beware: there is a school here”—or a hospital or whatever—but a change in the speed limit would be a negative.

Gail Ross

Other members will ask about safety. I will continue this line of questions. Local authorities have the power to issue a traffic regulation order to turn a 30mph limit into a 20mph limit. Would an alternative approach be to streamline the system to make that easier to do now?

Martin Reid

One of our concerns with the TRO system—even in its current form—is that local authorities face resource shortages across the board. Adding this suggestion to what are already troubled waters could mean that authorities take the easiest options because of resource constraints and just take a blanket approach rather than looking at individual roads. Anything that could mitigate that would be very welcome, probably at the next stage of the bill when more detail will be forthcoming. If the proposal is to be dealt with under the TRO system that already exists, we would have concerns about the ability of local authorities to carry that out.

Gail Ross

If local authorities have the ability to carry it out at the moment, surely making the process easier and quicker would be good for them, because it would take less time and resource.

Martin Reid

Why would changing the process make it quicker? They already have an established system.

The Convener

I think that the point that the deputy convener is making is that the process to reduce the limit to 20mph is quite laborious. The suggestion is that, if that process was quicker and easier, it would make the requirement for a blanket 20mph limit superfluous, because authorities could quickly and easily target the areas in question. Tony Kenmuir, do you agree with that point?

11:00  



Tony Kenmuir

It seems logical. I am not clear what the alternative to the TRO process would be.

Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

I want to follow up the TRO issue, which is important. If the current system means that you have to apply for a TRO to reduce the limit on a road to 20mph, presumably the same would be true in the obverse—if you wanted to increase the limit to 30mph. Do you have a view on whether there would be an additional or a reduced workload if you did it the other way round?

Paul White

I refer to the evidence that you received in your previous evidence session. The quantity of roads that you would be looking to change to 30mph limit roads would be slightly less, so the workload would be slightly less as a percentage.

On TROs, I support streamlining as long as it does not affect any consultation with key stakeholders who are impacted by a TRO. If the bill is enacted, there should be a period of time before measures are introduced when you consult stakeholders, such as the people on this panel, to decide which roads should retain the 30mph status, and the relevant TROs should be in place before the 20mph zones are introduced.

Neil Greig

The feedback that I am getting from local authorities is that the cumulative effect of everything that is happening is causing them a resource issue. If measures on pavement parking, low-emission zones and the bill all came in at the same time, they would struggle. If the bill goes through, we would like to see a streamlined process, which would make things easier for local authorities, given all the other things that they have to do day to day, such as fixing potholes.

Jamie Greene

Indeed. Presumably there would need to be a mapping exercise to work out which roads people wanted to change.

Many reasons have been given to explain the rationale behind the bill. In responding to my question, I ask you not to focus on air quality, journey times or congestion, because my colleagues will ask other questions about those issues. I will focus specifically on road safety, which is perhaps at the nub of this.

What are your views on the effect of the reduction from 30mph to 20mph on road safety for all road users—drivers and vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians?

Eric Bridgstock

I hinted earlier that the whole thrust of the 20mph approach is to encourage people to feel safer whether they are walking, cycling or whatever. That is less the case for drivers—they just have to look at their speedometer to make sure that they are under 20mph, although the evidence is that the actual speeds do not change very much; we are talking about speeds of 1mph less.

The more you encourage people to feel safer, the less care they take. It is evident in any 20mph zone that I have driven through—certainly in St Albans where I live—that people wander across the road without even looking, despite there being pelican crossings, because they are encouraged to feel safe. The evidence seems to be that casualty numbers go up. Manchester cancelled the next stage of its 20mph roll-out because the casualty reductions in the 20mph zones were less than those in the remaining 30mph zones.

Jamie Greene

Do you have a view on what percentage of accidents or collisions are caused by excessive speed? Do you have any statistics on that?

Eric Bridgstock

What do you mean by excessive speed?

Jamie Greene

Above the speed limit.

Eric Bridgstock

I do not have an answer to that.

Jamie Greene

Okay. It would be helpful to get one.

Eric Bridgstock

I point out that speed above the speed limit cannot in itself cause anything. I hinted in my paper that changing the speed limit to a lower or higher limit does not automatically make the road more or less safe.

Jamie Greene

What in your view is a safe speed? Is it an arbitrary number that the Government dictates to drivers, or is there some other method of determining it?

Eric Bridgstock

A safe speed is whatever is appropriate to the conditions. A safe speed on the motorway in fog might be 30mph even though the speed limit is 70mph. A safe speed in a 20mph zone could presumably be 30mph, given that it was previously 30mph.

Stewart Stevenson

I want to pursue what Mr Bridgstock said. He is essentially suggesting that if we make people safer, they will act more recklessly. I first heard that argument in the 1960s, when measures to make fitting seat belts in cars compulsory were introduced. It is generally acknowledged that fitting seat belts in cars made everyone feel safer. Is there evidence that that led to an increase in accidents and in reckless or careless driving?

The Convener

We are back to Eric Bridgstock.

Eric Bridgstock

I am not sure of the evidence, but I am certainly aware of the arguments. One argument is that putting a spike in the middle of the steering wheel would mean that everybody drove a lot more safely, because it is a clear sign that they would be hurt if an incident occurred.

Stewart Stevenson

Forgive me, but you cannot turn the argument upside down to suit your purposes—which, I hasten to add, I fundamentally disagree with. I asked a simple question. I and others argue that the most important contribution to safety and to preventing injury and death on our roads has come from the introduction of compulsory seat belts, which made everybody feel safer. I simply ask whether that major initiative to make people feel safer caused them to drive more recklessly.

Eric Bridgstock

I suspect that that has been the situation in some cases.

Stewart Stevenson

You suspect that in some cases, but you adduce no evidence of any kind whatever to sustain your argument that making people feel safer makes them more reckless. I will leave it there, convener.

Eric Bridgstock

Can I respond?

The Convener

You can respond.

Eric Bridgstock

I started driving when seat belts were being made compulsory, so I have always driven with a seat belt, except when I hired an MGA in Scotland in 2012—it had no seat belts, no power steering and no anything. For the first few miles, I felt unsafe to be driving without a seat belt. I was careful, but it was an old car.

Jamie Greene

I say with respect to Mr Stevenson that we are taking evidence not on whether seat belts are good but on whether reducing speed limits to 20mph would improve road safety. Does the panel have views on whether the approach that the bill takes would have an effect on road safety, including drivers’ perceptions?

Neil Greig

The evidence is growing all the time that the difference would be small. A 20mph speed limit does not make much difference to safety—there is no huge increase in safety—because the roads that are involved were often safe before the limit was reduced. To change the number of people who are killed on our roads, rural roads should be targeted. Few pedestrians and cyclists are killed in our towns and cities, although some are, and that is clearly to be avoided.

From the Atkins study that we have talked about and all the other studies, it is difficult to pick out safety benefits, if they are the key thing that is being looked for. Studies now show that speeds are coming down by 1mph or 2mph, but the reductions are often imperceptible—locals do not notice them. A recent speed compliance survey by the Department for Transport showed that 81 per cent of drivers in 20mph zones were breaking the speed limit, so such zones have a huge compliance issue.

We need more research and evidence, but there is a growing body of evidence that 20mph zones are not having the intended impact on road safety or—unfortunately—on encouraging active travel. We do not see a 20mph speed limit creating a huge improvement in road safety; it does not make much difference, because many of the roads that are involved were safe before.

Paul White

In simple terms, being hit by a bus or a car that is travelling at 20mph is less damaging than being hit by a vehicle that is going at 30mph, when the braking distance is longer. I completely agree that the evidence is inconclusive or points to a speed reduction that is not huge, but we are in the early stages and we are looking at schemes that have not operated for very long. If attitudinal change occurs down the line, perhaps speeds will come closer to and ideally be below 20mph, which we hope would bring the safety benefits. The evidence is inconclusive at the moment.

The Convener

I call Claudia Beamish.

Jamie Greene

Sorry—

The Convener

You can finish your questions before I bring in Claudia Beamish.

Jamie Greene

Our questions might complement each other. I am keen for the committee to look at the bill as objectively as we can and to take an evidence-based approach to what has happened. Scotland would not be the first place in the world to introduce such speed limits—they have applied in Edinburgh for a reasonable time and have been introduced in other cities and parts of the United Kingdom. Is the panel aware of evidence from what has happened to suggest that accident levels have gone up or down and that safety levels have improved or decreased? Given that the concept is not new, surely we can use the existing evidence to inform our decision.

The Convener

Neil Greig is offering to answer.

Neil Greig

The evidence is inconclusive, that is the problem. If it was clear, we would throw our weight behind it, but it is inconclusive. We are getting an increasing number of studies, from Portsmouth, Manchester, parts of London and Edinburgh—although we have still to see the long-term benefits in Edinburgh. Lots of studies are being done and the research is coming up with the same thing time and again: the safety benefits are pretty inconclusive.

Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab)

I will build on what Jamie Greene asked, to tease out some more issues around safety, which is obviously very important, wherever the bill goes.

My understanding is that the Atkins report does not come to any substantial conclusions. It has been highlighted that perhaps it is early days, but it is clear from the evidence that the report presents that the wider the 20mph roll-out is, the higher the reduction in casualties. That has been seen in the Brighton case study, which is the area case study in the report that has the highest change in the number of collisions and casualties.

There is a national inconsistency across Scotland in regard to 20mph roll-outs. As I understand it, from the written evidence and from today’s evidence, most of the panellists’ organisations say that 20mph is appropriate in the right places. Why then do the people of the Borders, which is in my region, not deserve safer streets when we already have them in Edinburgh?

The Convener

Who would like to start on that quite lengthy question?

Claudia Beamish

Sorry, but I needed to preface it with the report.

Tony Kenmuir

I do not claim to be an expert in road safety; I am an expert in the practicalities of shifting people around from one place to another. However, I was very closely involved in the consultation in Edinburgh and we monitored very closely what happened in the 16 test areas around the city. I think that the reason why evidence of a change in road safety is inconclusive is that there is very little change in driver behaviour and the speed that they are moving at in the first place. In a couple of the areas that were restricted in Edinburgh, the average speed went up a little bit and in some areas, it went down a little bit. The overall effect was to change the speed of the traffic from 21.5 to 20.5mph. In respect of the actual speed at which traffic is moving, I know that a taxi moves on average at about 13mph in the course of a 12-hour shift.

I do not think that anybody would deny the people of the Borders safe streets, but we are talking about the practicalities of the fact that, in the streets around a school when there are lots of parents picking up and dropping off and lots of kid moving around, people generally move quite slowly anyway. Therefore, changing the speed limit from 30 to 20mph when the traffic is moving around at 3 or 4mph is academic. The issue for me across the board, which I think reflects the views of our members, is that changing the speed limit from 30 to 20mph is pretty much an academic exercise, because traffic mostly moves in line with the conditions anyway. That is my point of view.

Claudia Beamish

If we take an area where there is a school, once you are in the school zone the speed limit is 20mph, but there are residential streets around about where children are crossing the road and going away from school. Would a 20mph blanket arrangement, apart from in the case of exemptions, not send a clear message that it is an appropriate speed to stick below?

Tony Kenmuir

It is a question of paying regard to the reality, and the reality is that the traffic does not get up to 30mph anyway. The signs can be whatever people want them to be, but all the evidence shows that that does not actually change average speeds or driver behaviour. I do not know if that changes people’s perceptions.

Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

I will take a different tack and ask about vehicle emissions and air quality. Will they change for the better or for the worse if we move to a blanket 20mph? There are mixed views on whether the move will make emissions better or worse. What impact does the panel think that a move to a default 20mph on restricted roads would have on vehicle emissions and air quality in our towns and cities?

11:15  



Martin Reid

We have had a look at this and we cannot find any evidence to say that there is a massive difference in emissions. There would be a slight reduction in particulates, because of things such as tyre wear and so on. However, we have not been able to find any evidence that the switch from 30 to 20mph would make any difference or that a truck’s emissions would be better or worse.

Paul White

I agree with Martin Reid. We have moved from one topic where the evidence is inconclusive to another one where it is rather inconclusive, although Peter Chapman raises a good point about the areas where air quality is a real issue. In those urban corridors, the average speed for buses is far below 20mph. Perhaps if 20mph zones brought a smoother flow of traffic with less acceleration and deceleration and you had a conversation with the council about other measures to help buses, such as priority at the lights to allow buses a smoother journey, that would bring down emissions.

Martin Reid

That is a key point—the stop-start nature of congestion is what causes the majority of the problems in that area. The free flow of traffic would make the biggest difference to emissions, rather than a 20 or 30mph speed limit.

Peter Chapman

If we go to a 20mph speed limit, would it allow the traffic to flow more freely? We have heard some evidence that on motorways, for instance, if you reduce the speed limit in congested areas from 70 to 50mph, the traffic moves better. Would the 20mph speed limit allow that to happen in towns?

Martin Reid

I do not know whether we can extend that argument from the motorways to the towns. In the case of the 20mph zones that exist just now, we understand why they are there, so driver behaviour changes.

Our members will not be in the 20mph zones in city centres as much as the members of the other groups represented here so I will defer to the other witnesses’ expertise on that side of things. However, for a heavy goods vehicle in Edinburgh city centre, there is a strong likelihood that it will not get to 20mph on any of the roads coming in.

The Convener

Tony Kenmuir, do you want to comment on that? I think you intimated that the average speed of taxis in Edinburgh is about 13mph. Did I get that wrong or is that what you said?

Tony Kenmuir

That is correct. The emissions that we generate are generally caused because we are crawling around at low speed; changing the speed limit from 30 to 20mph is academic if you are stationary. Emissions would be reduced if we could all get to a cruising speed and keep it going. Wouldn’t that be nice?

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

I thank all the panel members for their written submissions and their evidence today. As a number of colleagues have said, your opinions are valued, but we are seeking to hear an evidence base for them. We are not interested in erroneous opinions or opinions that are unsupported by robust research findings.

Mr Bridgstock, you have a number of colourful phrases in your submission. The widely accepted figure of 40,000 deaths a year being directly attributable to poor air quality you describe as a “zombie statistic” that is simply not true—

Eric Bridgstock

Can I come back—

John Finnie

If you will let me finish—I see that you find it amusing; I do not find that amusing.

Eric Bridgstock

That is not my statistic. It is not my quote. It is from the ABD—from Brian Gregory.

John Finnie

And you are speaking for the ABD—

Eric Bridgstock

I am supporting the paper but I did not write that piece. It came from the ABD.

John Finnie

Right—so you are speaking in support of the paper—

Eric Bridgstock

I am supporting the paper; I did not write it.

John Finnie

That is fine. Views are important and I am not suggesting that everyone does endless research, but there has to be some evidence base for those views.

I am trying to understand the value that we would place on your opinions given that, in your submission, you say:

“Pollution levels are illegal because we made it illegal, not because it’s dangerous”.

For the avoidance of doubt, you attribute that comment to a transcript of a BBC “Sunday Politics” programme at 25 minutes 34 seconds in. Is it your view that urban pollution is not dangerous?

Eric Bridgstock

I say again that I did not write that part of the paper, but I am prepared to answer the question.

There is a similar argument in relation to speed limits. For a long time, we have had a 30mph speed limit, which has generally been agreed to be the right speed. We are now saying that we want to change the speed to 20mph. Therefore, exceeding 20mph would be illegal when two years ago 30mph was perfectly legal.

John Finnie

We are specifically talking about air quality. Correct me if I am wrong, but the paper that I have cited is the one that you are speaking to. You attribute that comment to a BBC programme, and your paper has a link to that programme. Do you agree with the statement:

“Pollution levels are illegal because we made it illegal”?

Perhaps more worryingly, do you also agree with the statement that pollution levels are not dangerous?

Eric Bridgstock

I think that pollution levels have been getting better for years and years, because we have been making all manner of changes to cars. Vehicles are generally cleaner, so my understanding is that pollution levels are improving.

John Finnie

Is pollution dangerous? Is poor air quality dangerous?

Eric Bridgstock

It is what it is. I am not an expert on that. Safety is my thing.

John Finnie

That is grand. Thank you.

Richard Lyle (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

A number of respondents to the online survey raised concerns about the reduced speed limit increasing journey times and worsening traffic congestion. Do you have a view on that? I am sure that Tony Kenmuir has—he has already said that we are all travelling around at 13mph anyway.

Tony Kenmuir

Yes. The truth is that I do not believe that changing the speed limit would have a significant effect on journey times. I do not think that it does in Edinburgh, where I have personal experience of driving a taxi.

Richard Lyle

Is that not just the situation in Edinburgh? What about Motherwell, Bellshill or Dumfries? Would the average speed in those areas not be higher?

Tony Kenmuir

My experience, and the feedback from our members, is that, where a 20mph speed limit is in place, and it is, for example, late at night when a road is not congested, nobody particularly abides by that limit anyway.

I tend to refer to what actually happens in the real world. In the real world, we are not complying with the 20mph limit; therefore journey times are not being significantly affected and the cost of taxi journeys is not being significantly impacted. On a journey of several miles in which somebody is driving a consistent 20mph rather than 30mph, that would moderately affect the overall journey time and the cost. However, in the real world, I do not think that that happens—or at least, not enough to measure its impact.

Martin Reid

We have had no feedback whatsoever from members to say that journey times have increased in 20mph zones or, indeed, in most cases, where speed limits have dropped. Take the A9 as an example. Journey times have moved slightly, but the driver experience has balanced that out. It is a better drive now. Drivers tend to make provision for the additional 10 or 15 minutes that it will take between Perth and Inverness.

On the urban argument, I believe that Fife and Clackmannanshire are two of the areas that have adopted the 20mph approach. Again, I reiterate that we have had no adverse feedback from members to say that journey times are longer in those areas.

Paul White

Journey time reliability and punctuality are so important to bus operations. I have no evidence to present to you, but I know from discussions with operators that they found that the zones have perhaps increased journey times, but only marginally. In discussions with local authorities, they have been able to suggest measures that could be put in place to mitigate that small increase.

Richard Lyle

When I asked this question at our previous meeting, quite a lot of comments were made on Twitter. I asked whether bus times and timetables would be affected. I am now assured that they will not be and that reducing the limit to 20mph would improve things, given the stop-start traffic flow. Mr Kenmuir said that taxis are going at only 13mph on average anyway.

In your opinion, would reducing the default speed limit on restricted roads to 20mph have any specific impact on bus operators, logistics companies and taxi operators? We got an answer to that last week. I would like to hear your answer to it, given that you operate taxis going at 13mph.

Tony Kenmuir

I do not believe that it will have any measurable effect on journey times.

Paul White

I clarify that I was referring to certain operators that have experienced 20mph zones. I would not like my comments to be taken to mean that the introduction of the bill across all restricted roads would have zero impact on all operators, because that is not what I am saying at all. There are certainly CPT members, particularly in rural areas, who have voiced concerns that there would be an impact. I do not know whether those concerns will be proved to be correct, but I make it clear that I was not saying that there would be no impact.

On costs, if there is an impact on journey times and you have to put more resource in to retain frequencies, that generates a cost in drivers, fuel and vehicles. If the bill encourages active travel, that might lead to an increase in bus patronage—that would be the hope. I am therefore unsure what the impact will be.

Martin Reid

I return to the point that there are vastly fewer HGVs on such roads in the first place. My concern is about the more unregulated industries, involving vans that are brought in to do multi-drops in a number of different areas within those zones or within residential areas. The compliance side of that gives me concerns. As far as haulage goes, as my colleague from the CPT said, until we know which roads are likely to be affected we cannot say with any degree of certainty what will be the impact on journey times. On the urban side of things, we have had no feedback from members to say that journey times are being impacted, because of the nature of the roads that they are on, and the understanding that that speed limit is there for a purpose.

Jamie Greene

I want to follow up Mr Lyle’s line of questioning. If you are focusing purely on cities where average journey times are perhaps already below 30mph anyway, it is easy to see why there is only a nominal effect. However, we know the roads that the measure will apply to, because that is stated in the bill, and that the experience might be different across other parts of Scotland. The RAC, which is not represented here today, stated in evidence to us that the potential impact on urban congestion from reduced speeds and longer journey times might increase emissions—that goes back to our previous line of questioning. I do not think that we ever really got to the nub of whether slower speeds increase emissions. Do you agree or disagree with the RAC’s comments on that?

Neil Greig

“Inconclusive” is the word of the day. The evidence is inconclusive on emissions and congestion. I have seen no real evidence to show that the journey times would change in a way that people would notice. The studies so far show that the speed limit and driver behaviour in 20mph zones reduce speeds, particularly at the top end—if the speed starts at 28 or 29mph it comes down to 26 or 27mph, but the difference is imperceptible and people just do not see it. If you do not see any difference and it is not causing any issues, people think that, given that journeys can be stop-start, they will not have a problem with it. You have highlighted that when it comes to villages and rural areas, there is absolutely no research to back up the decision making. There is a lot of research on urban areas, but there is very little research on villages and less-populated areas, and that is not very helpful I am afraid.

Eric Bridgstock

As an engineer, my view is that if a village has a 30mph limit, a driver who has to go a mile at 20mph will probably be in a lower gear—revving harder with more emissions—and doing that for longer. It is a double whammy, which will put out more emissions. Others have spoken about acceleration and deceleration, but once a driver has come down to 20mph and dropped into third gear, rather than staying at 30mph, the vehicle must put out more emissions.

11:30  



Maureen Watt (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

Good morning, panel. I hope that we all agree that we want our citizens to live and work in safe and healthy environments. Over the decades, that has not necessarily been the case. Our streets have been taken over by the car and the car has become king. Pedestrians and children playing have to jump out of the way of cars, rather than car drivers realising that they should give way to pedestrians and to children playing.

In the written evidence, we have seen suggestions that the liveability of our neighbourhoods and streets would increase with 20mph limits. Given our problems with obesity and active living, surely it would be a good thing to make our streets more liveable—to make them places where people feel safer about taking more exercise and where our children go out to play—and without cars flying through them, as happens now. I would like to hear panellists’ views on that.

The Convener

Would Tony Kenmuir like to answer? I am sure that he drives around Edinburgh at 20mph. We will then go to Neil Greig and Paul White.

Tony Kenmuir

I agree with all that Maureen Watt has said, which seemed to be about the number of cars—fewer cars on the streets and fewer cars parked—rather than about reducing the speed limit from 30mph to 20mph. We all want our children and grandchildren to breathe cleaner air and to be safe. I am not sure that reducing the speed limit from 30mph to 20mph would reduce the volume of traffic, which is what was reflected more in Maureen Watt’s points.

Neil Greig

We think that the benefits of 20mph zones have been oversold as the solution. They are only part of the solution. Healthier people, less traffic and less pollution is a great ambition that we would all like to see being fulfilled. If children are going to get out to play in the streets, we will have to spend more money to change the character of the roads: we would have to invest in play streets and in changing the engineering of roads. Car drivers would have to be clear that they are not meant to be there, which they would understand; most drivers take their driving-speed cues from the environment that they drive through. If they drive through a street that has been relaid with chicanes and planting and is clearly meant to be a shared space, they drive slowly.

Our main concern in the debate is that 20mph limits are seen as the answer—and that is it. Part of the answer must also be further investment in segregated spaces and shared spaces. If a person on a bike is overtaken by someone who is driving at 26mph, as opposed to 30mph, they are still being overtaken by a tonne and half of metal that is very close to them, which puts off older and younger people from getting out on bicycles.

The answer has to include more than 20mph limits. I am not convinced that you need to start with a 20mph limit; you could go straight to investment and target it. Not every street has cars rushing through it; these days, most accident black spots have been dealt with. The answer is to invest more in making the cityscape look better as a shared space, so that car drivers will get the message.

Paul White

I agree very much with my colleague and with Maureen Watt’s statement. I sympathise with the concern that the car is king; 20mph limits are but one element of what I hope would be a series of policy interventions to tackle the problem.

If we want to build on what has been done, we have to prioritise active travel, including walking, cycling and bus travel, in accordance with the travel hierarchy. It is about giving people the option to walk and cycle, and it is about maintaining bus speeds and making bus travel attractive. A 20mph limit is part of the solution, but it will not on its own have the impact for which we hope.

The Convener

Maureen, do you want to hear from anyone else?

Maureen Watt

Everyone should have the chance to give their views.

Eric Bridgstock

Maureen Watt’s description is a perfectly valid one, but it seems to describe the same picture that leads to people feeling that they can lower their guard. We can say that a street is safer, yet it still has people going along it at 24mph, and kids should not be playing where there are cars. Crossing the road is one thing, but playing in the street is quite a different matter. The street is there for all manner of uses—lorries, taxis, cars, buses, cycles and people. It is not a case of one versus the other.

Martin Reid

I agree that we should try to make urban streets as safe as possible. I have two kids and I am more than happy when they are out playing because, apart from anything else, they are not under my feet. It is very important that we create safe spaces.

My situation is slightly different from the situations of other panel members. Nobody gets in a lorry other than to use it for delivering freight: people do not do so for recreation or for going to the shops. The number of vehicles—predominantly cars—that are on the roads contributes heavily to congestion, which we have touched on. If we had the infrastructure and if the public services were up to speed to encourage people to use other modes of transport and take up active travel, that would make everybody’s lives a bit better.

Richard Lyle

For years, I have seen adverts on the television that say, “Speed kills”. I know of a child who was knocked down by someone who was driving at 20mph. The child survived, but if the person had been driving at 30mph, the child would have been dead. Therefore, does the panel not agree that speed kills?

The Convener

Paul White is nodding. It is always dangerous to do so, because if you nod it looks as though you want to contribute and I will bring you in. Having given you a moment to think, do you want to answer that question?

Paul White

It is a straightforward yes. Speed kills. Will the bill bring speeds down to 20mph? Maybe it will not, but I agree that speed kills.

Richard Lyle

That has been proved. We asked earlier about evidence and it has been proved that someone who is hit by a car at 30mph will bounce back and hit their head on the road, but if we reduce the speed of a car, and they get hit at 20mph, they have more of a chance. I know of a specific case in which that happened, and the child, who was aged three at the time and would now be about 30, survived. Do you agree that Mr Ruskell’s proposal to have a 20mph limit could possibly save people’s lives?

Eric Bridgstock

I honestly do not think that it will, for the simple reason that—as we have seen—all the surveys and reports so far say that the mean speed of a car in a 20mph zone is perhaps 1mph less than it is in a 30mph zone. It is not speed that kills—it is bad driving. A driver who is going at 20mph and who is half asleep is more likely to hit a child than is an alert driver who is going at 30mph.

There is a reason not to mix up travelling speed with impact speed. Was the child hit at 20mph? In the instance that Mr Lyle mentioned, do we know what the driver was doing when he saw the child, and did he brake hard to the point at which he hit the child? Do you know more details? Is there an example of a child who was killed in which it can be claimed that, if the speed limit had been 20mph, the child would have survived? In the instance that has been mentioned by Mr Lyle, was it the case that the driver was driving dangerously or illegally, perhaps by driving above the speed limit, anyway?

Richard Lyle

The person was travelling at 20mph and the child walked right out in front of him from between two cars that were parked along the road. The driver did not have time to brake, and hit the child at 20mph. However, the child survived.

Eric Bridgstock

The driver was driving according to the conditions. For example, where I live in St Albans there are roads on which there are cars parked down each side. Even if the speed limit on them is 30mph, I would not drive at more than 20mph. Sometimes I have done 15mph. I do not like looking at my speedometer at such times, because I am too concerned about what is at the side of the road.

The Convener

It is dangerous to examine individual cases without having all the information to hand. We will move on to the next question, from Mark Ruskell, then we will move on to John Finnie.

Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

I have a supplementary question. I was interested to hear Neil Greig’s views about 20mph zones. As an organisation, IAM RoadSmart supports having such zones outside schools. However, we know from Automobile Association reports that 80 per cent of road accidents involving children do not happen there but happen in residential areas. Why do you not support 20mph zones in every residential area in which children live?

Neil Greig

That is because we would prefer limited resources to be targeted at locations in which there is a real and quantified problem.

Mark Ruskell

So, you would target resources at areas where children are not being run over rather than at those where children live, and where they are being run over?

Neil Greig

We would target streets on which there is a problem with high speeds, children are crossing the road and there are accidents involving injury. Unfortunately, the way in which road safety engineering works is that we cannot quantify a life saved; a problem must exist before we do anything about it. That may be the wrong way of going about things, but that is the way it works, given our limited resources.

If 20mph zones are to work, they should be self-explanatory and there should be engineering measures to make that happen. We cannot take a blanket approach whereby we expect to change driver behaviour just because we have put up signs. I would have loved for the Atkins report and others to have come back and said conclusively, “Yes—this works. People are slowing down, and there are fewer crashes and lower emissions.” Unfortunately, however, that is not the answer that we are getting from the reports.

Mark Ruskell

What proportion of residential streets in urban areas should be 20mph zones?

Neil Greig

I think that nearly all residential streets are 20mph zones anyway—

Mark Ruskell

“Nearly all residential streets” should be 20mph zones. Right.

Neil Greig

They are automatically because they have dead ends or car parking, and the vast majority of local people drive on them at 20mph. However, if you are saying that 20mph is the speed that you want people to go at, you would have to consider physical restrictions as well. As I have said, 81 per cent of people who drive in 20mph zones break the speed limit. The issue is where we put our resources. We are not convinced that a blanket approach will make any difference—and we would like to make a difference.

Mark Ruskell

Can I just ask one—

The Convener

You have had three questions so, to be fair, I would like to move on to John Finnie. A few other members also want to come in.

John Finnie

Thank you, convener.

We often want to hear witnesses’ views on awareness-raising campaigns that would accompany legislation that might be passed. If this bill were to be passed, do you believe that there should be such a campaign? If so, what format should it take?

The Convener

Who would like to answer that?

Neil Greig

I agree 100 per cent. For me, the most disappointing finding from the studies is about the lack of awareness among people who have had such zones—I will not say “inflicted” on them, because in many cases they have asked for them—put in when they did not understand what they were about or what they themselves were supposed to do. Campaigns need not be about targeting all drivers, which we can do nationally through Road Safety Scotland. The key to success with such zones is raising awareness of what we expect local people to do. Often, they do not understand why zones have been put in or what they are supposed to do, so they end up being against them when they are actually there for their benefit.

I would certainly support an awareness-raising campaign. It has been a long time since the 20mph, 30mph, 40mph campaign to which Richard Lyle alluded. We could do with a refresh of that, as well. However, for us, the approach should be about consultation and raising awareness among local people where such measures are not working so well.

The Convener

Does Tony Kenmuir want to come in on that? Following John Finnie’s question, should we have a campaign to make taxi drivers or drivers of passenger-carrying vehicles aware that the speed limit is now 20mph?

Tony Kenmuir

Communicating messages is always problematic. The simple answer is that drivers should know where to look for the speed limit signs on any street, so if we change them they should see them. Beyond that, I am not certain how to answer that question.

The Convener

Does Paul White want to come in on that?

Paul White

I had not considered that aspect. There is public awareness and there is the awareness of those who are professional drivers and carry passengers. Companies will feed that into their training and awareness so that the professional drivers are aware, and they will expect drivers to adhere to speed limits. Perhaps for the public, who do not know why the vehicle in front of them is travelling at 20mph, there could be adverts on the backs of buses.

11:45  



Eric Bridgstock

Awareness campaigns should be aimed at all road users. I re-emphasise what I said earlier, which was that they should avoid the mistake of making vulnerable road users feel too safe, which will lead them to take less care.

John Finnie

How likely is it that a campaign would increase driver compliance with the reduced speed limit? As has been mentioned, “RAC Report on Motoring 2018—the frustrated motorist” states that compliance on 30mph roads is 39 per cent, and in 20mph areas it is 39 per cent. The Atkins report found that the so-called acceptable speed—using the “10 per cent plus 2” rule—in 20mph limit zones, is broadly similar to that in 30mph areas. In answering that question on the likelihood of increasing compliance through an awareness campaign, what evidence do you have—other than anecdotal evidence—to counter that claim regarding the level of compliance?

Neil Greig

You have to be aware that the RAC report is a self-reporting study. When people are asked, “Do you comply with the 30mph limit?” of course, they are all going to say yes. The study to which I am referring, and can share with the committee—

John Finnie

But 61 per cent said that they did not comply! [Laughter.]

Neil Greig

Exactly. “Vehicle speed compliance statistics Great Britain: 2018” which was published just a few weeks ago, has traffic count measurements of actual speeds on the road, and it says that 81 per cent of drivers break 20mph limits. That is the overall figure—it varies among areas. That underlines the issue.

If you ask people what they do, they all say that the limit is great and that they support it, but what do they actually do when they go out and drive? They break the speed limit. It is a difficult issue and it underlines the need to get the message over. That goes back to my earlier comments about the need for the road to help drivers; the road has to explain to people why they should be driving at that speed, otherwise in free-flowing traffic conditions there is, as we see, very low compliance.

John Finnie

I wonder, given the organisations that are represented here, whether we are all being quite accepting of the situation. We just say “Oh, well. That’s the law, but folk just aren’t adhering to it.” Surely the statistics are alarming.

Neil Greig

Absolutely. In fact, we said in our press release that 81 per cent non-compliance is terrible. That undermines confidence in speed limits and enforcement. In other surveys that we have done, people have said that they are not keen on strong enforcement of the 20mph limit. They are happy to see enforcement through physical measures, awareness campaigns and so on, but when there was talk of police cameras and police, support fell off substantially. You have to be careful about that.

I have no evidence that would allow me to say, hand on heart, that lack of support for compliance with speed limits is affecting people’s behaviour elsewhere and causing more crashes, but we worry about confidence in speed limits being undermined because of lack of compliance with current limits.

Jamie Greene

My question on the issue of compliance, signage and driver perception follows on from those of other members. I have been thinking over the conundrum of what would be safer in reality. Would it be the status quo, in which the road has a 30mph limit for its entirety, but has signage at appropriate hot spots to designate them as 20mph, or would it be the new world in which the road has a 20mph limit along its entirety, with no further signage to designate reductions or hot spots? Which of those would be a safer environment?

The Convener

Who would like to answer that? Martin Reid looked away. That is also dangerous.

Martin Reid

I should give up poker. That is a really difficult question because in the current systems we move from 60mph to 40mph to 30mph, or 50mph to 30mph, quite regularly. The truthful answer is that I do not know.

I suspect that keeping the same speed limit across the board would probably turn out to be safer, but that does not take into account factors such as driver frustration. I think that if there were no other vehicles on the road it would be difficult to stick to 20mph.

Neil Greig

I would take the contrary position. On a long stretch of road, I would prefer the parts where there is an issue and where it is clear that there has been a problem to be targeted, instead of just having one consistent message that does not highlight to drivers that there is anything to be aware of, but just suggests that the whole road is safe, when it is not.

Stewart Stevenson

My question is just for Martin Reid. Are you familiar with the psychological phenomenon of ennui? In a driving context, that is the phenomenon whereby, if someone drives consistently at the same speed all the time, they become desensitised to the speed that they are driving at. There is some research that is not specific to driving but which applies to other environments that suggests that it is of benefit for there to be periodic variations, to reset people’s attention to what is going on. Are you familiar with that concept? Do you think that it would apply in this context?

Martin Reid

I will be honest: as I said previously, I am not 100 per cent convinced either way. My suspicions are along the lines that I have outlined but, as an industry, we constantly face variations in speed limits. As Neil Greig pointed out, when there is a drop in the speed limit for a specific reason, which is clearly outlined and understandable, people will comply with that.

Eric Bridgstock

As I said earlier, drivers need to be told what the hazard is. They will drive more slowly if there is a genuine reason for doing so, but I think that the approach of telling people to go at a slower speed when there is no apparent change in the environment will fail. If drivers are told that there is a sharp bend ahead, they will slow down, but if they are just told to slow down, they will think, “Why is that?” Knowing that there is a sharp bend or a junction coming up is much more important to a driver than being told to slow down for no apparent reason.

Mike Rumbles

I want to move on from compliance to enforcement, although the two issues are linked. The Scottish Parliament information centre’s briefing on the bill, which is available to MSPs and everybody else, says that research on the effectiveness of a 20mph limit in south Edinburgh concluded that when the speed limit was 30mph, the average speed was 22.8mph—in other words, the vast majority of drivers were obeying the law—but when the limit was reduced to 20mph, the average speed was 20.9mph, which meant that most drivers were breaking the law. Because we are talking about the criminal law, that meant that most of those drivers were criminals. The average speed was reduced by 1.9mph.

In addition, the bill would mean that all repeater signage in the 20’s plenty areas would have to be taken down; I am not sure that everybody is aware of that. All repeater 20mph signage would have to be removed. What problems would that create for enforcement of the criminal law?

Martin Reid

In such a situation, the policing of the policy is vitally important. We know from our dealings with Police Scotland how underresourced it is, so enforcement will be an issue. Alternative options such as speed cameras have been mentioned, but they all have a cost attached to them. There would be very little point in implementing a 20mph limit unless there was a punitive element.

I will not speak for my colleagues, but the question that we keep coming back to is whether it would be better to consider having targeted areas in which there would be a stricter requirement than other areas and ensuring that those targeted areas were properly policed.

Neil Greig

Going back to a point that I made before, when we asked people how they would prefer 20mph speed limits to be enforced, 45 per cent said that they would prefer enforcement by signs only, 24 per cent preferred road humps, 14 per cent preferred speed cameras, 4 per cent preferred enforcement by traffic police, and 13 per cent said that there should be no enforcement and we should leave it to drivers to conform. There is a fall-off in support for strong enforcement of 20mph zones. It would be important to see how sensitive to that the police were in their approach to enforcement; they have said quite publicly that at the moment they do not really enforce the 20mph limit in Edinburgh.

Resource is a big issue, but it is really a question of public support. If we started booking people doing 25mph at 3 o’clock in the morning on a wide-open road, when the character of the road had not changed for years and there were no pedestrians around, we would risk the public support that is very important for such measures to work.

Tony Kenmuir

We would all be safer if there were no cars, but I suppose that we are just trying to figure out where the practicalities are. If my daughter did not ride a horse, she would not have fallen off it and broken her collarbone.

I understand the argument that hitting something at 20mph does less damage than hitting it at 30mph, but I am beginning to think a wee bit about prohibition—a great example of a law that nobody really adheres to, nobody can really enforce and everybody pretty much ignores until eventually the decision is reversed.

Looking at all the evidence that we have gathered over the past few years and at all the consultations that we have been involved in, does changing the speed limits from 30mph to 20mph really change the speed of the traffic? No. Does it improve safety? Not that we can evidence. Does it reduce emissions? Not that we can evidence. I have spoken to MSPs individually about this. I know that it would not change average speeds much, but it might bring down top-end speeds; I have not really seen evidence of that either, but I have heard the argument and it is possible.

My position, and that of our members, is that everybody accepts that people are likely to pay more attention if there is a focus on specific areas. That is more likely to have an influence on people’s behaviour than a very broad-brush approach whereby enforcement is not possible, signage disappears and, in the real world, nobody’s conduct is likely to be affected.

The Convener

Eric Bridgstock, would you like to come in briefly before we move on?

Eric Bridgstock

I do not wish to put words in Mike Rumbles’s mouth, but what he said sounded like an argument not to roll out the policy at all, because there will be a very small change in actual speeds: they will still be just over 20mph. As Tony Kenmuir said, there will be no change to emissions either, so I wonder what the benefit of the criminalising approach is. In fact, if the normal margin of 10 per cent plus 2mph were applied, no one would be prosecuted in those areas at the previous average speed of 22.8mph, let alone at the new average speed of 20.9mph after the introduction of the 20mph limit. It is a curious argument to use in support of that limit.

Mike Rumbles

No one has commented on my point that if we pass this law, all the 20’s plenty repeater signs will have to be removed, so there will be only one sign in the 20’s plenty zone. Do you think that that will have an effect on compliance and enforcement?

I was taken by Tony Kenmuir’s comment about prohibition. When we produce laws of the land, they should have public support, because they will be undermined without it. Do you think that that will happen in this case?

Eric Bridgstock

I agree: I am sure that it will happen. People need to know what the speed limit is.

Neil Greig

That is a fair point. The compliance figures that I cited suggest that not having 30mph repeater signs is an issue, because people break the speed limit and claim that they do not know what it is.

12:00  



On awareness campaigns and enforcement, there could be an opportunity to take the approach of introducing 20mph speed awareness courses. Rather than issuing tickets, penalties and fines, you could get people in and get the message over to them. If people do not understand why the 20mph limit is there, we should get them in and put them in a room to do such a course. Speed awareness courses work for other limits. A 20mph speed awareness course is being developed south of the border. If we introduce such courses up here, they could be an opportunity to educate people and raise awareness.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

I realise that we are going over the same ground but approaching it from different angles. My angle relates to the financial memorandum. We are talking about a cost of some £20 million. Is this the best thing that we could do with £20 million? It seems to be my role on the committee to ask such questions.

If we are going to include only restricted roads, the cities will be full of main roads that are still 30mph roads, but all the side roads will be 20mph roads. If you are going along a major road at 30mph, you might turn into a minor road and see a sign that says 20mph, and when you get to the end of that road you will see a sign that says that the limit is going back to 30mph again. There will be a big cost in that signage for councils. From a cost point of view, would it not be better just to make the whole of Glasgow a 20mph area, because that would be cheaper for the council? I am interested in your views on that.

A kid might think that because they are on a side road and the traffic is going at only 20mph they can be more relaxed, but once they go round the corner on to the main road, the limit will be 30mph. From a safety point of view, would it not be both cheaper and safer if we just said that roads in small towns and big cities will all have 20mph limits?

Neil Greig

In the overall scheme of things, when it comes to roads, £20 million is not a lot of money; it will not buy you a new dual carriageway or anything of that nature. Given the cash-strapped nature of most local authorities these days, and the state of the roads, you could certainly spend £20 million better on such things as fixing potholes or introducing cycle lanes or other segregated facilities and targeting the areas where you have the biggest road safety problems. For us, it is all about the impact on road safety, and we are just not convinced that the bill will have a huge impact on road safety; indeed, if it takes resources away from elsewhere, it could have a negative effect on other areas of council spending.

I have said before that the main issue will be the cumulative effect on councils of all the things that are happening. That is what I am hearing. I have no further information on the financial implications for individual councils, but if they are being asked to do lots of different things, something has to come off the end of the line and be missed out.

John Mason

You seem to be saying that you think that it would be cheaper for councils if we just made a whole area a 20mph area.

Neil Greig

If you streamline the process and make it cheaper, that would be cheaper for councils. However, the £20 million that you mentioned could still be better spent elsewhere in order to impact on road safety.

Paul White

In the scenario that you pose, would we still be allowed to apply for a TRO for key bus arterial routes? That would be my ask. If there was a blanket 20mph limit, could we still have a discussion about potential exemptions? If a bus was getting stuck in traffic because of congestion and there was a small stretch of road where the driver could make up some lost time, would it be acceptable to have a TRO for that? If that is not acceptable, what priority measures could be put in place to allow buses to flow more freely, away from the congestion? We would like that sort of discussion to take place at local authority level, whether under the scenario that you suggest and under the bill’s proposals.

John Mason

I think we all broadly agree that there will be exceptions whichever way we do this. Do you have a preference, or are you willing to work with whatever the system is—whether there is a blanket 20mph limit with some exceptions or we have some 20mph roads and some 30mph roads, with exceptions?

Paul White

I do not have a preference or a view from my members—I cannot say one way or the other.

John Mason

That is fine.

Mike Rumbles

My question is for Paul White in particular; it follows on from what John Mason has just asked. The financial memorandum states that councils will pay about £10 million over two years for all the signage. However, the bill says—and I am thinking of rural Scotland and my area of Aberdeenshire in particular—that all the A and B roads are not affected. The speed limit on all the roads through the villages will not be reduced under the bill. However, in every village in Scotland, every road and lane with street lighting will have to have signage both in and out. Do you think that £9 million to £10 million over a two-year period will achieve that?

Paul White

I am not qualified to speak about the cost. I was pleased that the financial memorandum talked about signage and not traffic-calming measures such as speed bumps, because that would add to our members’ maintenance costs and would make journeys less pleasant. I cannot comment on the costs of the signage and whether £9 million to £10 million will be enough.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

We have now asked most of our questions and I think that it is clear that the panel are sceptics about the bill.

I want to come back to a point that was made by Eric Bridgstock, who seemed to imply that the bill would make things worse. The submission from the Alliance of British Drivers said:

“Vulnerable road users are given the perception that 20mph zones are safer than 30mph areas and behave less cautiously”.

What evidence does the group have to back up that claim? Why do you think that it is appropriate to blame vulnerable road users for getting run over by cars being driven too fast?

Eric Bridgstock

I am not sure that I blame them. I am not speaking for the ABD just now, as I do not know what evidence it has. All I know is that, every time that I drive through a 20mph zone, I stick to the 20mph limit, but I see people wandering into the road, not using pelican crossings, not waiting for traffic lights to turn red, looking at their mobile phones and wearing their headphones. I am sure that it is the same here in Edinburgh, although I only arrived last night. It is a natural thing—people are encouraged to feel safe, and a lot of the public opinion surveys that 20’s Plenty for Us has done have asked, “Do you feel safer?” If people feel safer, they lower their guard—that is a natural human instinct. Why would they not?

Colin Smyth

Do you have any evidence to back up your claim that more people are run over in 20mph zones because they feel safer?

Eric Bridgstock

The evidence that something is happening in 20mph zones comes from Manchester, where it was found that the number of accidents in 20mph zones did not decrease as much as it did in areas that were still 30mph zones, according to trends.

Colin Smyth

Other areas will say something different, but you are saying that the figures in Manchester are based on vulnerable road users behaving in an irresponsible way.

Eric Bridgstock

Perhaps the word “vulnerable” is wrong; perhaps it should be road users in general and pedestrians or young people in particular. I do not know. They seem to be the ones wearing headphones and looking at their phones most of the time.

Colin Smyth

Can you specify any studies that back up the claim that that problem is worse in 20mph zones? People wear headphones in 30mph zones as well, but you are saying that it is a particular problem in 20mph zones.

Eric Bridgstock

People have not been encouraged to think that it is safe in 30mph, 40mph or 50mph zones. It is the theme of 20’s Plenty for Us that 20mph zones are safe—“Go and play in the street; it’s safe”. John Mason mentioned that a kid needs to know what a road’s speed limit is, but kids do not know what the speed limit is. They know—or should know—what the flavour of a road is and whether they need to be careful when crossing it because it is fairly busy. They should know how to use a pelican crossing. If there is a 20mph speed limit on a road, they should not be encouraged to just wander into the road or kick a ball around on it.

Gail Ross

Is it an educational issue? We should be teaching our children to not walk into roads without looking, regardless of the speed limit. If they are doing that, we need to re-evaluate what we are teaching our children. The measures should surely go hand in hand with enforcement, awareness raising and education; that is the whole package that we should put together.

Eric Bridgstock

That is what I said earlier. It is important that, if there is a roll-out campaign, it does not tell people that it will be lovely and safe and that they can go and play in the road. However, that is what is going on at the moment—that is Rod King’s approach.

John Mason

I want to build on Colin Smyth’s question.

There is a busy junction in my constituency called Parkhead Cross, which is right next to my office. Some of you might have seen it. It is in a poorer area of my constituency so it is probably one of the poorest areas in the country. A lot of people are already totally relaxed about crossing it and I see parents dragging their kids across the road against the red lights, even though it is a really busy junction. I have seen vulnerable people doing that, including at night. The roads might be quieter then, but it just takes one drunk person to wander across the road in dark clothing and car drivers will not see them. Someone such as that would surely be safer if the speed limit for the whole junction was reduced to 20mph. As the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, the Faculty of Public Health and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said, when people get hit—unfortunately, that has always happened at that junction and probably always will—that will be a lot less bad at 20mph than at 30mph.

Eric Bridgstock

Your argument involves a law-abiding driver who is driving carefully to the 20mph or 30mph speed limit hitting a person who he has either seen or has not seen and who is in dark clothing and is lying on the road because he is drunk. It is just as likely that the driver is someone who is not law abiding and perhaps thinks that, because it is late at night, they can drive at 40mph where there is a 30mph limit or even a 20mph limit. A collision being avoided because a law-abiding driver has reduced their speed to the speed limit is a very unlikely scenario, which I mentioned in my submission.

John Mason

I do not see your distinction between who is and who is not law abiding. The point is, if somebody is hit, they are less likely to be killed or hurt if the driver is driving at a lower speed. Even if a driver is not law abiding, if the driver in front of them is law abiding, they will both drive slower.

Eric Bridgstock

My counter to that is to ask you to find me an example of an accident in which somebody was killed or injured and in relation to which you could plausibly claim that, had the speed limit been lower—20mph is the obvious speed limit for your example—the accident would not have happened.

Stewart Stevenson

There are umpteen examples that we could provide.

Eric Bridgstock

Please do so—I have been asking for such information for a long time.

John Mason

We will take your points, but we are not here to immediately give you answers.

Eric Bridgstock

If an accident is caused by a drunk driver, an illegal driver or someone in a stolen car, that will not be affected by a different speed limit. That driver will drive badly whatever the speed limit is—that is my argument.

John Mason

That is an argument against any speed limit.

Eric Bridgstock

It may be. I believe that most people would drive safely.

John Mason

With no speed limits? Okay, I will leave it there.

The Convener

As there are no further questions from members, we will end the evidence session. I thank all the witnesses for coming in, and I suspend the meeting to allow them to depart.

12:12 Meeting suspended.  



12:14 On resuming—  



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Third meeting transcript

The Convener (Edward Mountain)

Good morning and welcome to the eighth meeting in 2019 of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. I ask everyone to ensure that their mobile phones are on silent. No apologies have been received.

Agenda item 1 is two evidence-taking sessions on the Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill. In the first session, we will take evidence from Police Scotland, local authorities, an academic and the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland; in the second session, we will take evidence from the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity and Scottish Government officials.

I welcome to the meeting our first panel: Walter Scott, vice-chair, liaison committee, and Kevin Hamilton, member, traffic and road safety working group, Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland; Chief Superintendent Stewart Carle, divisional commander, road policing division, operational and specialist support, Police Scotland; Dr Ruth Jepson, reader in public health and principal investigator on research into the impact of 20mph speed limits in Edinburgh, University of Edinburgh; Andrew Easson, road safety and active travel manager, City of Edinburgh Council; and Brian Young, infrastructure manager, Scottish Borders Council.

You have all probably given evidence to or attended a meeting of a committee of the Parliament before—or not, as the case may be—but I will try to make things easy by going through some of the rules. First, you do not need to touch anything on the panel in front of you—that will be operated by the gentleman on your left. If you want to answer a question, you should catch my eye, and I will bring you in. Once you have caught my eye, the secret is not to look away while you are talking, because I will have to interrupt you if you go on too long. If I think that you have made your point—and are probably labouring it—I will waggle my pen to give you a good indication that I want you to wind up so that I can bring someone else in. With so many of you on the panel, it will be difficult for all of you to answer every question, so do not be offended if I do not bring you in. I will try to balance things as best I can.

I should also say that it is incredibly dangerous for you to look away when someone asks a question, even if that is a clear indication that you do not want to answer it, because I will just pick one of you—and it will probably be the one who looked away first. I hope that you will all get a chance to answer a question during this session; we have a lot of questions, but there are quite a lot of you, too, so I will appreciate short answers. We will try to keep things moving so that you all get a chance to respond, but if you want to speak, the secret is: catch my eye and I will bring you in.

The first question is from the committee’s deputy convener, Gail Ross.

Gail Ross (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)

Thank you, convener. You will no doubt appreciate short questions, too.

Good morning, panel. I will start with a very simple question: do you support or oppose the bill’s proposals to lower the speed limit on restricted roads to 20mph? I would also like you to give a brief reason for your view.

Walter Scott (Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland)

SCOTS is generally supportive of the bill and certainly the intentions behind it. However, as with many things, the devil will be in the detail, and I hope that we will be able to touch on that issue today. We have been working on the preparations for the bill, and we hope that certain areas of concern will be picked up as it progresses through the parliamentary process.

Kevin Hamilton (Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland)

As Walter Scott said, SCOTS is generally supportive of the bill and its aims. Given that the biggest proportion of those who are killed or seriously injured in urban areas are pedestrians and cyclists, there is a road safety argument for having this legislation. Crucially, the way in which the bill is framed probably provides the most cost-effective mechanism for local authorities to introduce widespread and consistent 20mph limits across the whole of Scotland.

Chief Superintendent Stewart Carle (Police Scotland)

Police Scotland supports any measures that will reduce road casualties, and plenty of evidence suggests that lower speed limits achieve that aim. Like previous speakers, we want to see some more detail, but I should say that, where we can, we already support existing 20mph zones that have been promoted by local authorities.

Dr Ruth Jepson (University of Edinburgh)

I have two answers to this question. In my role as the person evaluating the 20mph limit in Edinburgh, I must be unbiased and therefore have no particular view on the matter. However, as a public health academic, I support what are called upstream interventions such as legislation, as they can have a big impact on the health of the population.

Andrew Easson (City of Edinburgh Council)

The City of Edinburgh Council is supportive of the bill. Given that we have already implemented widespread 20mph limits, it will not make a lot of difference to what is happening on the ground in Edinburgh, but it will make it a lot easier for other local authorities that want to take a similar approach to do so in future. We also think that it will go a long way towards building acceptance and understanding of, and increasing compliance with, the limits; that will be important for Edinburgh as we move forward.

Brian Young (Scottish Borders Council)

Scottish Borders Council is entirely supportive of any measures that support road safety, and we also broadly accept the bill’s intention to make it easier for local authorities to introduce 20mph limits. That said, we remain very concerned about the bill’s one-size-fits-all approach, because we feel that that will disadvantage some rural areas. Moreover, as it stands, it will have a significant financial impact on the council; it is unlikely to make any appreciable impact on accident numbers, mainly because they are already very low in these areas; and it will have only a limited impact on speed.

Gail Ross

Kevin Hamilton said that, on balance, the bill perhaps presents the most cost-effective mechanism for councils. Bearing in mind what we have just heard from the Borders, is that the view of all councils?

Kevin Hamilton

The answer to that is no—there is no unanimous view among local authorities. However, in my opinion and from the evidence in the financial memorandum and the work that I have done for West Lothian Council, which is the council that I work for, the bill provides a cheaper way of doing this for an authority that has not already gone down the road of implementing a widespread 20mph limit.

The Convener

Sorry, Kevin. I know that Walter Scott wants to come in, but first perhaps you could clarify what you said about there not being a majority. Are councils in favour or against?

Kevin Hamilton

I said that it was not unanimous.

The Convener

What was not unanimous? Can Walter Scott clarify that?

Walter Scott

Yes, I can. We have undertaken a poll of sorts—it is not necessarily statistically valid—of our members on certain aspects of the bill and its progress. There is a bias towards being in favour of the bill and regarding its measures as cost effective. Around 50 to 60 people were in favour and 40 to 50 were against, depending on how the don’t knows are considered.

Gail Ross

Do you find that there is a split between rural and urban areas?

Walter Scott

The analysis does not show that. There has certainly been interest from the local authorities. The respondents included Fife Council and the City of Edinburgh Council, both of which are already experienced in rolling out 20mph limits. One of those authorities is probably in favour, while the other is less so, therefore we cannot think of any split in such straightforward terms as the areas being rural or non-rural. However, the premise has always been that it would be more straightforward to implement such a limit—and that it would be more understandable—in an urban environment than a rural one.

Gail Ross

Perhaps Brian Young could go into a little more depth about the difficulties that his authority, which is a rural one, might face.

Brian Young

The difficulties go back to a point that is made at paragraph 40 of the financial memorandum:

“Thus, while it is expected that local authorities would incur some costs under the Bill relating to using the order-making process to introduce a network of roads with a higher speed limit, these costs would be lower than they must currently incur to achieve a similar outcome”.

It is saying that no costs will be involved in that aspect, because it is equitable. However, that makes the basic assumption that all authorities are looking to introduce widespread 20mph limits in their areas, which is not the case. In the past, most local authorities have looked at the issue and made a decision to introduce what they had already intended to introduce, so this would be very much a case of additional work.

Gail Ross

Would you prefer to see the status quo, whereby you are able to choose which areas, streets, housing estates or schools should be taken down to a 20mph limit as and when you, as a council, see fit?

Brian Young

Yes, that would be our preference.

The Convener

Gail, I am afraid that you have pushed the envelope on questions. I must move on to the next one, which is from John Mason.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

The bill is called the Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill. My question is on why only restricted roads, as opposed to a whole area, should be limited to 20mph. I understand that Edinburgh has gone for zones, so that even the A1 could be part of a 20mph zone. On the other hand, the bill applies only to restricted roads. If we were to take the example of a small town such as Hawick, presumably the limit on the main road through the town would stay at 30mph and those on the side roads would all be 20mph. Would it not be easier just to make the whole thing have a limit of 20mph? Could we hear your thoughts on that, Mr Scott?

Walter Scott

The premise is simplicity of approach, as far as what is or is not a restricted road is concerned. How consistently that is applied across the country varies slightly. A boundary must be set on that, so that what is a restricted road is defined. The roads that John Mason talked about—A and B roads that run through towns but are not restricted roads—would not default to a 20mph limit. SCOTS would look for the time and resources to undertake more detailed assessment. The powers would be available to local authorities through the traffic regulation order process and they could then incorporate such areas into 20mph zones where that was appropriate.

John Mason

Are you happy for that to be done through the TRO process, or would it be simpler to put it in the bill so that the whole area would have a limit of 20mph?

Walter Scott

I suggest that it would be more complicated if you tried to put it into the bill. If you did, there would have to be local consideration about A roads and B roads, which might be deregulated or have speed limits of 50mph, 40mph or 30mph. Strictly applying a 20mph speed limit for all roads in such an environment would be overly restrictive on local authorities in demonstrating the local applicability of that limit.

09:15  



Andrew Easson

Edinburgh’s approach to a blanket roll-out of the 20mph speed limit was to apply it only to city centre roads. A cordon was put around the city centre and every road within it was made a 20mph road. Outwith the cordon, we made judgments based on the type of street, how it functioned and its use. We applied the 20mph limit primarily to residential streets, streets with high numbers of pedestrians and cyclists, and shopping streets. There are arterial routes that are still 30mph for part of their length, but are 20mph for the rest. A bit of route consistency is to be achieved there.

As my colleague said, if the bill were to go through, local authorities would still have the option of tailoring the speed limit using TROs. In our road network, for instance, about 80 per cent of the roads are now 20mph so, under the current legislation, we have to do TROs for 80 per cent of our roads. If the bill were to go through and we wanted to retain a network of streets with a 30mph limit, we would only have to do TROs for, say, 10 per cent of the road network. That is where the difference comes in with the process.

Kevin Hamilton

I want to give a bit more information about the restricted road issue. I have had a look at the situation in West Lothian, and most of the A and B roads that run through built-up areas in West Lothian are already covered by an order under section 82 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, which designates them as restricted roads. In effect, if the bill were to be passed, those roads would default to 20mph.

I understand that that position is probably similar in other authorities that made a restricted road order in 1985, after the 1984 act was enacted. There was a historical situation whereby, on enactment, it was not clear whether A, B and C-class roads were included in the definition of restricted roads. The regulations that made A and B roads unrestricted roads came some time later; in the intervening period, local authorities made restricted road orders that designated many of the A and B-class roads in their urban areas as restricted roads.

The Convener

I will bring in Stewart Stevenson. We are all looking confused—certainly, I am confused—by this, as we have never heard it before.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

It is just a technical question. Did one road order achieve the redesignation of all the A and B roads as restricted, or did you have to redesignate the roads individually?

Kevin Hamilton

I can speak only for the Lothian Regional Council order, as that is the one that I am familiar with. One order designated all the A and B roads that the then authority wanted to make restricted roads. Since that time, certainly in West Lothian, we have continued to vary that order when new built-up parts of A and B roads have come on stream.

The Convener

That does not shed any light on what other councils did.

Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

I hope that members of the panel can help me out with my question. I am in favour of 20mph zones where we can have them, but the question is whether the bill is the best way of achieving that.

We have already received evidence on this. The City of Edinburgh Council—which, under the current law, has basically done what the bill aims to achieve—said that, if the bill is passed, it will cost up to £1 million in Edinburgh to remove all the repeater signs and do everything else that would have to be done.

We spoke to Highland Council, which said that it would cost a great deal of money. The council gave the example of Wick in the north of Scotland. I asked whether the bill would make their lives easier work-wise, if not cost-wise. The response was that it would not, because there would be a similar amount of work to do to change the roads that go through Wick.

If we are all in favour of reducing the speed limit to the appropriate level to make roads safer, is the bill the best way to do that, considering that the councils’ evidence to the committee is that it will cost a lot more than the amount in the financial memorandum and it will not save them any work?

Brian Young

The intention of the bill is to make the process simpler, and to make it easier for authorities to introduce a widespread 20mph speed limit. The difficulty is that not all authorities have decided to do that. My authority has researched the matter and we have introduced 20mph speed limits at schools and on routes to schools. We believe that that is where the limits can be most effective, and where people are most likely to understand and comply with them. It would not be our choice to extend the 20mph limits further than that. Part of the reason is that we fear that, as with other road safety initiatives, the wider we spread them, the more diluted they become. We feel that introducing 20mph limits through all our towns and villages may impact on the places where they are in place just now.

Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

The potential for the speed limit on A and B roads passing through towns and villages to go down to 20mph is new evidence that we have not heard before. I have concerns about that. People need to get about their business, lorries need to deliver stuff and folk need to get to their work. I am concerned that it is a step too far, but how do the police look on it? Will they actively enforce 20mph limits on A and B roads through the middle of towns and villages? If not, I think that 90 per cent of people will break the law and we should not put folk in that position. Will Stewart Carle comment on where the police stand on that possibility?

The Convener

Mr Chapman will have to apologise to Mr Finnie afterwards for asking his question but, as the question has been posed, I will bring in Stewart Carle.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

He can apologise now, if he likes.

The Convener

We will sort it out afterwards.

Chief Superintendent Carle

I am thinking back to what Mr Mason asked about his area of Glasgow, where the Edinburgh Road is a three-lane divided carriageway with a speed limit of 30mph. To the driver, that road would appear to have a higher speed limit, but it is 30mph for a very good reason, which is that there are a lot of side streets and heavy traffic. However, as you travel along that route, the speed increases at certain places. I can think of numerous other examples. I met Mr Ruskell in Stirling, where I live, and the A9 runs through Stirling. There has already been a reduction from 60mph to 40mph for the main route into Stirling, as part of the work undertaken by local authorities. I have concerns that the bill might seek to impose 20mph as a blanket speed limit.

Mr Chapman asked specifically about police enforcement. If the law is enacted, the police will play their part in upholding the law, but 20mph zones will not be a priority, because the majority of casualties are on faster roads. We will continue to focus our finite resources on those areas. In the meantime, our safety camera units, which come under the programme, will continue to be deployed on roads with limits of 30mph and above, because the equipment is not calibrated for 20mph. Do not expect to see the cameras suddenly switching into urban areas. We will uphold whatever law is passed, but that will be done proportionately.

John Finnie

I have a number of questions for Mr Carle. Good morning, and thank you all for your evidence. In previous sessions, we have heard from a range of speakers, many of whom said, with a grin on their face, that the speed limit is not enforced. I appreciate that the evidence from Police Scotland was probably historical, rather than responsive to that, but I was surprised by Mr Carle’s answer. I thought that you would take the opportunity to stress that your obligation as a police service is to enforce legislation that is passed, including the existing 20mph zones. However, you tell us that camera enforcement is not possible because the cameras are not calibrated. Why is that?

Chief Superintendent Carle

It is down to the type of equipment that is used. We can go through a process to recalibrate that equipment but, in the meantime, the safety camera vans that you will see out on the roads—the flexible sites—will go to prominent crash locations and those locations where they will have the greatest influence on reducing speed and detecting speeding motorists. We detect between 4,000 and 6,000 speeding motorists across the country using those measures.

We uphold the law. The inspector sitting behind me just now is the unit commander for Edinburgh city and he works with the local policing teams—primarily with community police teams—to enforce the 20mph zones.

John Finnie

There seems to be a bit of a catch-22 situation. I note what you say about casualty prevention and reduction, which is very positive. You talk about maximising the potential to do that and then you talk about the numbers killed and seriously injured and traffic offence data as factors that you use. If you are not treating the 20mph areas as a priority, you will not have traffic offence data from those areas. We have already heard that the camera vans do not monitor that. You talk about routes that attract higher offending rates, but if you are not actively working in the 20mph areas, that factor will be discounted, too.

I find it deeply offensive, but there is a calculation of the cost of an injury or death. What would it take by way of child injuries and—heaven forbid—child fatalities to change the priority to ensure that there was enforcement or more rigorous enforcement of the current 20mph areas, never mind any new ones?

Chief Superintendent Carle

I must operationally prioritise where I can have the biggest impact with the finite resources that I have. We currently see the greatest number of casualties on some trunk roads and roads with the national speed limit. We use a mix of resources and tactics. We are working towards reducing the number of child casualties along with other partners in the 2020 framework. However, in the meantime, suddenly switching lots of resources away from faster roads into urban areas would not give the same gain. That is why I have to prioritise the faster routes.

John Finnie

You talk about the faster routes, but if someone is going 27mph in a 20mph zone the implications are potentially more significant than someone going 75mph on a motorway.

Chief Superintendent Carle

The figures do not bear that out. The greatest number of casualties so far this year have been motorists—typically motorists who lose control of their car at high speed on rural routes.

John Finnie

That is because of irresponsible driver behaviour.

The Convener

Mr Finnie, you may ask one more question and then we must move on.

John Finnie

Okay. I am surprised by your comment that the perception of enforcement is that it is “overly punitive”. How do you gauge that and what do you mean by saying that the 20mph must be “self-enforcing”? Does that apply to other speed limits?

Chief Superintendent Carle

First, on enforcement being punitive, we have already heard that the public have to see a law as being fair if they are to comply with it—that is where we get the greatest level of compliance. Secondly, a method of self-enforcement is a road layout that conveys a signal to the driver that there is more risk and greater danger. Road engineers use signage, paint and other engineering methods to convey to motorists that there is greater risk. Such self-enforcement tends to happen around housing estates. Where new housing estates are built, we would expect to see engineering measures that convey to drivers that they should be travelling at less than 20mph.

We started with the twenty’s plenty campaign and now we are seeing local authorities promoting 20mph. The driver needs to recognise the type of road that they are travelling on and comply with that, rather than expect to see a police officer on every corner.

Mike Rumbles

I have a supplementary question that relates to my first question, and perhaps Walter Scott can answer. Let us be kind to the financial memorandum. When the bill was lodged, it said that there would be costs up to £10 million. The evidence that we have received is that the City of Edinburgh Council would have to spend £1 million and rural councils in particular would have to spend millions of pounds. It is not a robust financial memorandum. Are you convinced that it will be value for money for councils if we operate 20mph areas in the system that is proposed by the bill? I am particularly interested in whether councils will get value for money.

09:30  



Walter Scott

We were involved in the development of the costings for the financial memorandum. The figures in the cost report that SCOTS prepared last summer—I was the author of that—were £19 million at the low end and £33 million at the upper end. That is fairly consistent with some other figures that you have no doubt heard from local authorities. The people who drafted the financial memorandum took those figures and applied certain considerations and assumptions.

We stand by the figures that we produced. We used a pretty rudimentary model to develop the cost for implementation. As I said, that model would not suit every situation or council, but we felt that that was the appropriate way forward for the range of councils that we considered.

When it comes to the value to local authorities of the policy, local authorities have shown that, under the current powers, there is a reluctance to roll out 20mph limits more widely. We have evidence of that across the board. There seems to be a smattering or a smooth area and then less smooth areas. The passing of the bill would give local authorities a duty to have such zones. They would then be required to look at the issue, or, at the very least, to write it out. That is the stage at which the funding for local authorities that is attached to the bill is essential.

Dr Jepson

I want to make two comments from a public health perspective. We are doing an economic evaluation of the 20mph schemes in Edinburgh and Belfast. Unfortunately, the results will not be available until next year, but we are interested in the cost effectiveness of the policy.

With regard to whether the policy is a cost-effective public health intervention, I can talk only from a public health perspective. The proposal is seen as one that has high up-front costs. However, you need to think about the gains that you would have as a result of that investment over 20 or 30 years in terms of a reduction in mortality and the number of non-fatal accidents. That brings the cost into perspective. There is a cost of enforcement, but most of the costs are up front. That is unusual for a public health intervention. Often, the costs are on-going.

The Convener

Jamie Greene has a question that is linked to this issue.

Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

It is, but I also think that we are moving around a bit in our conversation this morning, which is fine.

Dr Jepson, are you saying that, once you pay the up-front costs of putting in signage, you can stop there and simply expect safety to improve, casualties to reduce, behaviour to change, enforcement to improve and data collection to get better? It strikes me that there is not enough evidence to suggest that sign-only speed-limit schemes are enough. If the bill is introduced, local authorities will have to foot the majority of the cost, and many are telling us that they would not have the cash to do so. Do you agree that another approach might be taken, such as rolling out schemes across the country as and when they are required and when it is affordable to do so?

Dr Jepson

That is another option. We know that road architecture measures such as road humps would be more effective. However, in public health, we look at issues at a population level, and we talk about the whole of Scotland being affected in some way by a policy. The proposal costs a relatively small amount of money in terms of total budget and, even if there is only a small gain, it can still be a cost-effective measure. It would be better to put in road humps everywhere, but that would be more expensive. The proposal that we are discussing is cheaper but could still have a public health benefit and be cost effective overall.

Jamie Greene

I do not want to get bogged down in a discussion about whether we should have road humps or signs or both. I was struck by what Mr Young said earlier about the notion that, in areas where there is an obvious reduction of speed—any hotspot around a school or another area that the local authority has defined—there must be traffic-calming measures. Do you think that there is an issue with removing the obvious shift from a 30mph limit to a 20mph limit? Do you agree that, at the moment, drivers know that there is a reason why they should be slowing down at the hotspot and that, if we take those temporary reductions away, we might somehow lose some of the benefits that we get at the moment?

Brian Young

Yes—that is very much the fear. People who drive along see what are sometimes temporary, part-time limits that apply during the day when schools come out, or—depending on the area—more permanent 20mph limits. However, they can see the reason for them being there and we think that they are more accepting and more likely to comply. We worry that a widespread introduction would dilute that effect.

Jamie Greene

Is there any evidence on whether the behavioural shift of going from 30mph to 20mph in designated areas has a positive effect, and whether their removal would alter that behaviour?

Chief Superintendent Carle

We probably see greater compliance with 20mph limits when they are around schools. There has been a lot of enforcement around schools not only of speed limits but in relation to parking, and we see that drivers react to that. Drivers need to understand what road they are on, the area that they are travelling through and why the speed limit is at the level it is and thereby self-enforce that responsibility rather than rely on hard punitive enforcement.

Walter Scott

I will not get bogged down in the question of road bumps or no road bumps. I want to pick up the suggestion that, if 20mph limits were rolled out, everything would stop and nothing would happen after that. Each of the traffic authorities is administering and managing the network. We are picking up accident hotspots and we are looking at the data. We would still need to do the day job. It would just be slightly different because the baseline would change in certain areas. We would still look at those hotspots and then target further interventions—be it the road hump or the engineering—to suit the location and its particular need. To apply that more generally across every single restricted road and across every single 20mph area would be disproportionate. However, proportionality and, perhaps, further reinforcement of the 20mph limits around schools and hotspots are still needed.

Andrew Easson

I have a brief point on the issue of 20mph limits outside schools. We are trying to encourage children to travel actively to and from schools. For that to happen, parents have to feel that children are safe over their entire journey, not just the 200m outside the schools. Although there is an argument that drivers may be more compliant directly outside the school, there is also the portion of the journey that is outwith that part-time 20mph limit. If the limit is restricted to a short length of road, it has less of an encouraging effect in that regard.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

I want to return to a point that Mr Young made on the current Scottish Borders policy that focuses on areas around schools, which is an approach that is initially adopted by a lot of local authorities. Do your current casualty figures show that most accidents involving pedestrians and cars are around schools, or are they in other residential areas?

Brian Young

Thankfully, there are not a lot of pedestrian casualties at all. Statistically, there is no difference between the areas around schools and other areas. As my police colleague said earlier, most of our issues are on the 60mph or national speed limit routes. Within towns—touch wood—pedestrian accidents are very unusual, and those that occur tend to be at very low speed and to involve reversing vehicles.

Colin Smyth

There is no real evidence that there is a bigger problem around schools than in a residential area next to a play park.

Brian Young

No, there is no evidence and, statistically, the numbers would not allow any evidence to be presented on that basis.

Colin Smyth

The other point that you made as a council in the policy statement is that rolling these limits out involves a cost issue. The feedback from people in my area is that there is frustration that the process is so bureaucratic and takes so long. Can the existing process of designating 20mph limits be improved to lower the cost, to potentially widen the areas and to make it quicker for you to roll them out, or have you decided that, for a variety of reasons, it will happen only around schools?

Brian Young

It is a national process that we have to go through—

Colin Smyth

Can it be improved? Can changes be made to the national process?

Brian Young

I am sure that they can, to make it more streamlined. Obviously, as with any traffic regulation order, there is a process to go through and things such as statutory consultation have to happen. It is a long and relatively bureaucratic process.

Colin Smyth

Given your council’s policy of focusing on schools, do you envisage that, if the bill goes through, you will pass orders to go to 30mph on lots of restricted roads in your area? Will you just accept that the limit will be 20mph? I appreciate that you cannot say what councillors might decide in future, but is it your judgment that, because your policy focuses on schools, you will pass orders that will turn what would automatically be a 20mph limit back to 30mph away from schools?

Brian Young

That would be a policy decision for the council. If the bill is passed, we anticipate that there will be widespread 20mph limits. We would perhaps look at arterial routes through towns, but only the arterial routes.

The Convener

I will bring in Mark Ruskell, because I want us to focus on the national picture rather than on a particular area.

Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

Thank you, convener.

Scottish Government guidance is that 20mph should be the norm in residential areas, but how seriously the guidance is taken varies considerably. Why is that the case? Why do some local authorities, such as Scottish Borders Council, not really want to implement the guidance, while others, such as City of Edinburgh Council, are going a lot further?

Walter Scott

Let me speak on behalf of Brian Young: I do not think that it is a case of Scottish Borders Council not wanting to implement the guidance; the council is taking the 20mph roll-out seriously, as are many authorities.

To a degree, there is an issue of timeliness and willingness in regard to looking at the guidance. I am sorry, but I am going to quote figures—I am happy to make them available to the committee for your consideration. Eighty-six per cent of the councils that responded to us have a policy, plan or strategy in place for dealing with 20mph zones, but we do not see that transferring to actual roll-out of the policy. About 20 per cent have rolled it out completely, 20 per cent have rolled it out in most places, 30 per cent have it in some places and 30 per cent have it hardly anywhere.

Therefore, the implementation of the guidance is subject to some kind of filter. I do not believe that that is necessarily related to the complexity or timescales involved in the process for making traffic regulation orders—the democratic process, I hasten to add; it is not just a bureaucratic process. It takes a certain degree of guidance and something to shake things up.

The policies that were in the guidance that initially came from Transport Scotland brought the issue to the fore. Councils considered the issue. It has been more than five years, on average, since they updated their plans, and it is more than five years since they looked at 20mph zones seriously.

This is the opportunity for councils to reappraise their position. They require every encouragement in relation to the aspirations in the bill and its implementation, but it is for local councils to determine how best to implement the approach locally.

Kevin Hamilton

I was involved in the working group with Transport Scotland that developed the most recent 20mph guidance. Since then, one key issue for local authorities has been funding and another has been knowledge, experience and staff resources in councils. A lot of knowledge and experience has disappeared over the past five years, and that has been a barrier, along with the fact that funding for such initiatives has been very thin on the ground.

Colin Smyth

I have a brief question for Ruth Jepson. You mentioned that you are carrying out assessments of the impact in Edinburgh and Belfast. Unfortunately, that work is on-going and is not available at the moment. Do you have any current assessments of the effectiveness of 20mph zones where they have been rolled out?

09:45  



Dr Jepson

We started two years ago, during implementation in Edinburgh, so we have been collecting data for the past two years and we are due to report in August 2019. We have just started analysing the data from one full year after implementation; we want to see the effects at various time points for as long as we can. I cannot tell you much at the moment, apart from the fact that speeds have reduced by about 1.5mph, as expected. In some areas—mainly on some of the main roads in the initial zones 1, 2 and 3—the reduction is a bit higher than that.

We also look at perceptions. At the beginning, about 25 per cent of people did not want the new limit, but a year later that has reduced to one in five. With public health or transport interventions, people often think that they will not like something, although when it happens, it is not as bad as they thought that it would be.

I am afraid that that is all that I can tell you at the moment. We are starting to do work on casualties, although that has already been reported by others. There has been a reduction in casualties, but that is a long-term trend.

The Convener

For clarification, did you say that, on some roads, speed has dropped by 1.2mph?

Dr Jepson

No. I am sorry that I do not have the numbers in front of me, but the reduction is about 1.6mph. That is the average for the city, so it will be different in different areas.

The Convener

It is important that we look at the speed that people have reduced from. What speed were people travelling at that has seen that reduction?

Dr Jepson

We looked at it in two different ways. We looked at the average reduction and then at people who were going over 24mph. The reason why we chose that figure was that we assumed that people tend to go 20 per cent over any speed limit. The reductions in that group were higher—they were up to 2.3mph.

The Convener

Sorry, but I think that you misunderstand me. I am trying to identify what the position was when the speed limit was 30mph. You have seen a reduction, so I presume that you did an assessment to show that when the limit was 30mph, for example, 90 per cent of drivers travelled at 23mph, because that was all that they could do in Edinburgh, and the average speed has dropped by 1.6mph or whatever. Is that the way that you have looked at it? I am slightly confused, and I am trying to work out how many people travelled at the speed limit of 30mph in Edinburgh so that we can see how big a reduction there has been and therefore how big a change the bill will make.

Dr Jepson

Before the introduction of the 20mph zone, the average speed was about 25mph, but that was over the whole of Edinburgh.

The Convener

So that was the average on the faster roads as well as the slower roads.

Dr Jepson

Yes—that was the overall average, and it has now reduced by about 1.5mph, as an average over the whole of Edinburgh. However, there will be variations in different places. We have not yet done all that analysis, because it is incredibly time consuming.

The Convener

I am sure that it is incredibly time consuming. I am trying to find out how many people were doing 30mph in Edinburgh before the introduction of the zones.

Dr Jepson

We have not done that analysis yet.

The Convener

Therefore, it is difficult to see how much of a shift has happened.

Stewart Stevenson

Forgive me, but we are talking about means and to be honest, as a mathematician, I am more interested in medians. I do not care if the law-abiding people reduce their speed—that has no impact on safety that we need to worry about. I am interested in the people who significantly exceed the speed limit. I want to know what effect changing the speed limit from 30mph to 20mph has on those people, who are likely to be the source of greatest risk. The speed could come down by 1.9mph or whatever as a result of the conformist people reducing their speed, while those who significantly exceed the limit have not reduced their speed by a single mile an hour. Will your research ultimately tell us whether that is the case?

Dr Jepson

I think that I was answering the wrong question last time. In response to your question, when we considered those who went over 24mph—so more than 20 per cent over the limit—we saw that there was a reduction of around 2mph. Therefore, the speed reduced more for those who drove at higher speeds. That is what we want.

I completely agree with you; I would like to do more analysis of that sort, as well. Just saying that the speed reduces by X amount an hour over the whole city is too blunt an instrument. We need to know whether the speeders are reducing their speed.

The Convener

I think that Stewart Carle ought to answer that question, as well. Has the number of people who seriously exceed the speed limit reduced since the introduction of the 20mph speed limit?

Chief Superintendent Carle

That is a difficult question for me to answer. I do not have those figures in front of me. Those are the people whom we are most concerned about, and we will target them.

We see the greatest compliance with speed limits where engineering and average speed cameras are in place. The compliance levels are very high for all motorists on Old Dalkeith Road in the city of Edinburgh, which has the first urban average speed camera system. However, there will always be motorists who will choose to break the law and drive at high speeds in a dangerous manner. Those are the individuals whom we are most interested in catching.

Maureen Watt (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

Good morning, panel. My question is mainly for Ruth Jepson and follows on from what she has said. Have you done any work on finding out whether 20mph speed limits help to increase levels of walking and cycling?

Dr Jepson

We are definitely doing work on that; that is one of the issues that we are looking at. A year from now, I could give the committee lots of results. Unfortunately, I cannot give it those results yet, but we are definitely looking at that issue as one of our major outcomes.

Maureen Watt

Anecdotally, is there any evidence at all of that having happened?

Dr Jepson

We can only really go back to the Edinburgh pilot, the evidence from which suggested that there were increases in cycling and walking. From other evidence, we know that there have been small increases. However, at the moment I cannot give members information about that from our study, unfortunately.

Andrew Easson

The pilot study that we did in south-east Edinburgh several years ago showed an increase in walking and, in particular, a fairly significant increase in cycling, primarily because of the increased perception of safety on the road network for pedestrians and cyclists.

Maureen Watt

I am particularly interested in whether the bill will have any impact on placemaking and in whether neighbourhoods will feel safer and people will feel that they can let their children out to play more safely. Have any of you considered that aspect in relation to the bill?

Walter Scott

The placemaking element is certainly a huge opportunity. The questions have rightly focused on casualties, safety and some of the numbers, but there is an opportunity to make an impact on local placemaking with a more general roll-out of 20mph limits.

Across the board, we will still need to be focused in certain areas and, as has been identified, we would still need to engineer. When placemaking with engineering, we would be looking at using TROs, as we currently do, to bring the speed in those areas down to 20mph. Ultimately, that would encourage us to see the issue more widely and therefore make the most of our streets and the places in which we live, play and work.

Where the roads are not suitable for that, the characteristics will be slightly different, and there will need to be local consideration in those areas. That local consideration should be not just by traffic engineers; it would have to involve lots of different aspects, including placemaking. If we had more time and resources to do a more detailed assessment, I would hope that the guidance would identify other areas that we could open up and bring into full consideration, and placemaking is certainly one of those areas.

Andrew Easson

Our policy is that any new residential street should be designed for a 20mph speed limit. Widespread 20mph limits allow us to design our roads in a different way so that they are more people friendly and more oriented to pedestrians than to through traffic. With 20mph limits, we can widen footways, cut down radii at junctions and make crossing points narrower. We might hesitate to do those things on 30mph roads, but with 20mph limits we can roll out a different road layout that is more people friendly.

Maureen Watt

In some places, there are now shared spaces where there is no distinction between the pavement and the road—the space is there for everybody. Surely there must be 20mph limits in such areas.

Kevin Hamilton

The current design guidance from the Government very much points towards designing for placemaking and a design speed of 20mph. The problem that that creates for local authorities is that they have to promote orders to put those 20mph limits in place. If the bill is enacted, the limit will default to 20mph so, in the long term, there will be less administration for new streets that are built.

Maureen Watt

We have heard today and in previous evidence sessions that what is proposed would make things easier, given all the rigmarole and bureaucracy that people have to go through at present. Going back to the finance, I note that we have heard that the proposal would cost local authorities such-and-such but, to me, that does not take into account what has already been spent. How much has Edinburgh spent on 20mph limits? What has been the budget for that over the past five or 10 years?

Andrew Easson

We have rolled out 20mph speed limits under the current legislation. The cost of the recent roll-out, which covered about 30 per cent of our streets, was about £2.5 million. We have not done a direct costing of how much that would have cost us under the proposals in the bill, but it would probably have been less than £1 million, because of the way that the work would have been done. If the bill becomes law, there will be significant savings for other local authorities that have not already rolled out 20mph limits in the way that we have.

The Convener

Thank you. The next question is from Jamie Greene.

Jamie Greene

My question is on a different topic, but I am intrigued by a theme that came up in Maureen Watt’s line of questioning, which is the concept that roads will somehow be safer if we reduce the speed limit. I am not talking about, for example, the point of impact in an accident; I am talking about the concept that a road with a 30mph limit is for cars whereas a road with a 20mph limit is much more of a shared space. Surely roads with 20mph limits and roads with 30mph limits are both dangerous for pedestrians.

Chief Superintendent Carle

I do not think that we can apply that generally. We have spoken about young people, but elderly people make up the greatest number of casualties. We have heard about the risks around large vehicles moving through cities and the risks in car parks, where even a very low-speed collision can lead to a fatality or serious injury. We have also spoken about placemaking and making our town centres attractive. A large part of that is about tourism and the night-time economy, and that is where we see a greater risk to pedestrians, who may be distracted and/or intoxicated.

The scientific data tells us that a collision at a lower speed is less likely to result in serious injury, so if the general principle is to lower speed limits from 30mph to 20mph, and if speeds come down, that may over time have the public health benefits that we are seeking.

Jamie Greene

That is helpful. Thank you for clarifying that.

Walter Scott

Where the speed limit is reduced to 20mph, accidents clearly have less impact and fewer consequences, and the frequency of accidents also reduces. There is evidence, which I think the committee has heard, that a 1mph reduction in speed results in a 6 per cent reduction in the likelihood of contact being made. We then have to factor in the consequences of that as well.

10:00  



Jamie Greene

Thank you for that. From the evidence that we have been given, it sounds as if the majority of fatalities occur at higher speeds anyway.

There is a lot of discussion about the environmental aspects when we talk to people about the bill. There seems to be a suggestion that cars that are driven more slowly pollute the environment more. There are numerous academic reports on that, some of which run to hundreds of pages, and we have heard every side of the argument, which leaves us all the more confused as a committee.

I do not really want to get into the in-depth science behind that, but I would like a general view—if there is an overarching view—on whether driving at 20mph has more, less or the same effect on emissions and local air quality.

Dr Jepson

Last year, we asked two masters students to look at that issue. They looked at both particulates and emissions in 20mph zones and non-20mph zones in Edinburgh. Basically, the results were inconclusive. The effect is likely to be minimal and could go either way, but it is not a big problem. That is the best information that we have. We are replicating that study later this year to get some more data.

Brian Young

It is not about the percentage reduction from the 30mph speed limit down to the 20mph speed limit; it is about the 2mph reduction in speed. It is almost a moot argument, as it will be overtaken by the reduction in diesels and the increase in electric cars. It is not the most important argument to consider.

Stewart Stevenson

On the maths, is the pollution emitted by a petrol or diesel engine not related to the number of ignition cycles? It has nothing whatsoever to do with the speed. In other words, if you are operating in a lower gear because you are driving more slowly, the number of ignition cycles for distance covered increases and therefore, the amount of emissions coming out of the tailpipe per mile increases—or is that to misunderstand the mechanics of how things actually work?

The Convener

You have managed to get everyone to look in the opposite direction, Stewart. Maybe Kevin Hamilton would like to try to address that question along with Jamie Greene’s question.

Kevin Hamilton

I am a civil engineer, not an automotive engineer, so I have no idea what the answer is to Mr Stevenson’s question.

Jamie Greene asked whether there is an overarching view. I think that Brian Young’s point is probably one of the most important points. The vehicle fleet is changing and will continue to change dramatically over the next 20 years, so the emissions issue will be dealt with in other ways.

The Convener

As no one else wants to comment on that, we will move on to the next question.

Richard Lyle (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

Cultural change has taken place over a number of years on various issues, including drink driving and smoking in pubs. If we make the twenty’s plenty initiative national, could there be a cultural change in attitude over the years about driving at 20mph rather than 30mph? I am looking for a simple yes or no answer to that question.

The Convener

Andrew—do you want to give a yes or no answer?

Andrew Easson

I was not going to, but the answer would be yes.

The Convener

You do not have to give a yes or no answer.

Andrew Easson

For Edinburgh, it is one of the most important benefits that we see coming from the bill. At the moment, decisions to introduce 20mph speed limits are made locally. An element of the local population will not agree with those decisions and may not put the same value on a local decision as they would on a change in national legislation. National legislation carries far greater weight. It also brings the possibility of national advertising and national promotional behaviour—

Richard Lyle

That was going to be my next question.

Andrew Easson

It brings a lot that is outwith the reach of local authorities. So, yes, I think that making it national is very valuable.

Chief Superintendent Carle

My answer is yes. I would say—to borrow a phrase from the violence reduction unit—that road violence is preventable, not inevitable. We need to make inappropriate speeding and exceeding speed limits as socially unacceptable as drink driving.

Richard Lyle

At the end of the day, this is not rocket science. People are speeding and going faster and faster. If you are hit by someone driving at 20mph, you will have more chance of surviving than you would if you were hit by someone driving at 30mph.

Chief Superintendent Carle

That is correct.

Richard Lyle

Nowadays, we do not see adverts on television that tell us that speed kills. We all see the nutters on the motorways who drive at 80mph or 90mph.

I was criticised on Twitter because I asked a question about bus times in a previous evidence session, but we have received conflicting evidence about the effect of reducing the speed limit to 20mph. Some members have touched on that. Are you aware of any evidence that 20mph speed limits result in longer journey times or increased traffic congestion for buses and people who are going to their work?

Dr Jepson

We have been looking at that issue in our evaluation. I spoke to John White about two weeks ago, and I think he was going to put out a statement saying that introducing 20mph speed limits has not made any difference to bus journey times. I cannot say anything about passengers, but he thought that many other things in Edinburgh, such as road works, are having more of an impact on bus journey times than the 20mph speed limit.

Andrew Easson

In Edinburgh, as part of the development of our network, we consulted bus operators on that issue quite a lot. It was one of the factors to which we gave a great deal of consideration when we were thinking about which strategic routes to leave with a 30mph speed limit, and we decided to leave the ones that carried heavy bus services. Part of the reason why there has not been much impact on bus services might be that, for much of the length of many bus routes, there is a still a 30mph speed limit.

Chief Superintendent Carle

Buses tend to restrict traffic flow and reduce speeds, and we do not want people overtaking at high speeds. Although it is still at a very early stage, the early indications from an average speed camera system in Mill Street in Rutherglen, where the speed limit has been reduced from 40mph to 30mph, are that traffic flow has improved. Transport Scotland reports better traffic flows on trunk roads where traffic behaviour is regulated so that speeds come down.

Richard Lyle

So, reducing the speed limit to 20mph will make no difference to people’s journey times but could help to ease the traffic flow and ensure that people get to where they want to go safely.

Chief Superintendent Carle

That could be the case during the busiest times, but the issue is in getting drivers to comply with the speed limit at 2 o’clock in the morning. As I said earlier, the risks are not removed just because the roads are quieter and higher speeds can be achieved. In the past year, there have been a number of pedestrian fatalities due to drivers travelling at high speeds and not seeing a pedestrian.

Walter Scott

There is rightly a focus on the city environment, where there is a denser population, but there will need to be local consideration of bus routes. The arterial routes that have been mentioned are likely to stay as 30mph zones to allow bus services to get from A to B. Reducing the speed limit to 20mph would be advantageous to buses when they got into the urban environment to do their pick-ups and drop-offs.

Stewart Stevenson

We have had a fair bit of discussion about TROs, but I want to briefly explore some other aspects of them. Andrew Easson suggested that it cost City of Edinburgh Council £2.5 million to do what it has done using TROs and that it might—I put it no stronger than that—have cost £1 million under the new arrangements. That is 40 per cent of the cost. Would it be possible to simplify the traffic regulation orders to make the cost of an order 40 per cent of the current cost? That would be an alternative, cost-effective way of introducing the legislation.

Andrew Easson

The cost of the TRO process is only a very small part of the implementation costs, which are mainly to do with signage. The bill would change the signage requirements, so that is where the main financial saving would be.

It would be possible, through legislation, to change the TRO process to make it cheaper, quicker and easier, but there is a balance to be struck with regard to local democracy and giving people the opportunity to view, comment on and object to proposals. As I have said, the cost of the TRO process is not massive, but the process itself involves a lot of work and takes a lot of time. The city-wide TRO that we introduced in 2016 to implement speed limits on 30 per cent of our network involved listing 2,500 sections of street individually. Just to put that in context, someone had to go out and schedule up those individual lengths of road.

Stewart Stevenson

Can you give us an understanding of the number of people involved and the number of person hours that were worked?

Andrew Easson

As far as person hours are concerned, I cannot. However, our TRO team is fairly small, with three or four members of staff, and they are working on TROs for all sorts of things. The city-wide order was prioritised to get it through, but, because its implementation across the whole city took us several years, what with the number of streets and signs that were involved, we had to create a second TRO for each phase to account for the fact that the street network changes over time. New streets get built and others get altered, and, over the period, we had to run four separate supplementary TROs to amend the original TRO. As was alluded to earlier, developers are building new streets in the city on an on-going basis, and every new street that gets built needs a TRO to put a 20mph limit in place.

Stewart Stevenson

Let me pick up on the point that Kevin Hamilton made—that, in West Lothian, the A and B roads were designated as restricted. Do you think that, had the same approach been taken in Edinburgh, it would have reduced the signage cost, which you have identified as the big cost associated with the present system?

Andrew Easson

The signage cost is based on the current regime, under which we have to sign every 20mph road with repeaters. The question is not really about whether the road is restricted or unrestricted; it is just about what the speed limit is.

Stewart Stevenson

So, if 20mph is the default, the requirement for repeater signage goes away. That is my understanding, anyway—I see you nodding, so I must be correct. Given that fact, could the bill’s provisions, had they been implemented at the time, have led to a significant reduction in cost? If so, is that why your £2.5 million figure goes down to £1 million? I am getting a nod, so that is fine.

I think that I have probably covered my questions, convener.

The Convener

In that case, we move to the next question, which is from Peter Chapman.

Peter Chapman

I want to continue on the issue of repeater signs. As we understand it, if the bill is passed, there will be a requirement to take down those signs where this sort of thing has already happened—in Edinburgh, for instance. Is that worth the cost? Is there any real reason to remove signs that have already been put in place under current schemes if the bill, which removes the requirement for repeater signs, is passed? In short, is there any real reason to take them down if they are already up?

Walter Scott

Speaking from a national perspective, I think that it is all about consistency. We do not want to undo any great work that has already been done in the city of Edinburgh, but the people there recognise the benefit of having consistency across the Lothians and, indeed, across Scotland to ensure that people are not confused. If they think, “I keep being reminded by repeater signs in this location that there is a 20mph limit,” and they then go somewhere else that also has a 20mph limit but does not have any repeaters, they might be lulled into a false sense of security and think, “I haven’t seen any repeaters, so I can drive a little bit quicker.” Such signage needs to be rationalised.

I would point out that the issue is not just the signing but the lining. However, there is a reasonable presumption that, if the bill were passed, we would not suggest that those lines be burned off. Instead, we would just let them degrade over time. The signs, on the other hand, are readily removable. It would be a relatively costly exercise to remove them, but I think that national benefits would accrue from there being consistency when moving from one local authority area to another.

10:15  



Andrew Easson

There are other options. As things work currently, we sign by exception: we do not put up repeater signs for the default speed limit but we sign everything else. It would be entirely possible to change that and sign everything, although there would obviously be an additional cost associated with doing that. The issue could be dealt with differently, but, as things work currently, we would have to take the signs down.

Chief Superintendent Carle

Good signage is worth investing in, as it tells drivers what the speed limit is, although I appreciate that applying signage consistently is very expensive. Signage is something that we consider after fatal and serious accidents—we look at the signage that leads up to the location and how well it is maintained. There is nothing better than stopping a speeding driver at a repeater sign and asking them, “What was it that told you to go faster?” It is about fairness and getting people on board, so that they understand the speed limit, but the finances of that are outwith the police’s remit.

Peter Chapman

If the bill is passed, the repeater signs will need to come down, which goes against what you just said about signage always being good. You said that it is never a bad thing to have a sign in place to remind people, but repeater signage in Edinburgh, for example, will need to come down if the bill is passed.

Richard Lyle

Traffic lawyers could make a good business out of this, could they not? Maybe Stewart Carle can answer that question.

Chief Superintendent Carle

They might, but, if the bill is properly enacted, as I am sure it will be, whatever form it takes, that issue will be taken care of. When people are building a defence, they will rely on, for example, the default—

Richard Lyle

“There wisnae a sign, Chief Superintendent. I never saw a sign.”

Chief Superintendent Carle

That generally is not a defence just now if someone is driving on a restricted road.

I appreciate the importance of giving clear messages to motorists—without clutter, which is an issue that can arise if we have too many signs. Speed roundels on roads help.

The Convener

Richard Lyle has tested his defence and it is not going to work.

Richard Lyle

I do not drive that fast.

John Mason

Most funding for local authorities is local authority funding, of course, but does Sustrans or Transport Scotland provide financial or technical support to authorities that are rolling out 20mph zones?

Walter Scott

There are a range of funding mechanisms, and local authorities are pretty adept at tapping into them. If there are such funds in Transport Scotland, we will be there, and the same goes for Sustrans. The beauty of the Sustrans bidding is that the bid inevitably builds in opportunities to consider placemaking as well as speed limitation, so a project that has a Sustrans element opens itself up to opportunities for cross-funding, which serves both purposes. However, there are no specific requirements that link the funding that is currently available—or that has been available—to the 20mph limit.

Andrew Easson

When we were working towards the initial implementation of 20mph zones, we made use of quite a lot of funding that came in through Sustrans or through Scottish Government grant funding from the cycling, walking and safer streets fund. I am not sure that we would be able to use that funding stream to alter signs to comply with changed signage requirements resulting from a bill that, in effect, meant that we would keep the same speed limit and just alter the signage.

John Mason

The financial memorandum refers to savings for Police Scotland of between £320,000 and £562,000 if the bill were to lead to there being fewer serious accidents. I would have thought that the police would just do something else, so there would not be a saving. Will you comment on that, Chief Superintendent Carle?

Chief Superintendent Carle

Yes, the resource would switch to other areas, but we would still have to investigate the accidents that took place. The saving is negligible when we look at the bigger gains that are to be had here.

John Mason

The figures are quite small. Is it fair to say that there would be no saving at all? The overall police budget would not change, regardless of what we did with the speed limits, would it?

Chief Superintendent Carle

No, it would not. That figure is ascribed to the cost of attending and investigating accidents. If there were fewer collisions, that element of cost would be taken out of its current budget line but would still be spent elsewhere.

John Mason

Thank you very much.

John Finnie

I have a question that is primarily for Dr Jepson. How do the road safety, health and placemaking policy aims of the bill measure up against the financial costs? Clearly, there is an overlap across a number of issues.

Dr Jepson

I am not sure that I can answer that question at the moment. We are looking at some aspects again, and we are particularly interested in what we call liveability, which is about how safe and pleasant our streets are to live in. As yet, though, we have not done any economic analysis of that. I am sorry, but I cannot answer your question.

John Finnie

Okay.

Jamie Greene

That leads nicely into my next question. Given that a comprehensive and substantial piece of work is being done on Edinburgh’s experience of 20mph zones—which, as far as I can tell, is the largest study to date in Scotland—would it be sensible or prudent for the committee and for Parliament to wait and see what comes out of that analysis before we take a view on whether the approach should be rolled out across the rest of Scotland?

Dr Jepson

That is an interesting question. I suppose that the Edinburgh study is one of the biggest that has been done anywhere. We are also looking at Belfast. It is difficult for me to respond, partly because Edinburgh is Edinburgh and the analysis is context specific—what happens in Edinburgh might not be the same as what happens in smaller urban or rural areas. The analysis will give us indicative estimates of overall effectiveness and cost effectiveness, of which we are doing some robust analysis. However, I would not like to make a judgment on that now.

Jamie Greene

Does anyone else have a view?

The Convener

I will bring in Brian Young. Do you feel that the analysis would help to inform your position?

Brian Young

There is already enough evidence from across the country. I do not expect the Edinburgh information to differ greatly from that, but we can never have too much evidence. I am not sure that the fact that we are waiting for the analysis would be a good reason to delay things, though.

Walter Scott

We have already used City of Edinburgh Council’s experience in our cost reporting and the work that we have done, to see how it would apply against a typical authority or range of authorities, so the analysis would not give us anything more on national applicability. If time were to be allowed to get more evidence, I suggest that it should be used to direct local authorities and that resources should be provided for looking at implementation in the 31 other local authorities, so that we would have something much more definitive.

Jamie Greene

By then, it would be too late. We would have passed the bill, the provisions of which would be being rolled out nationally, and our capital city could then produce a report containing evidence to the contrary. Would it not be better to see the Edinburgh analysis first, before taking a view on the model’s applicability to the rest of the country?

Dr Jepson

We are at an interim stage just now. The direction of effect is roughly the same as what has been found elsewhere, so I do not think that the analysis will contain anything surprising. It is just that some of the effects that have been found elsewhere are likely to be replicated. I do not want to say too much, because, as a researcher, I have to keep in mind that these are interim results. However, at the moment, we are seeing similar reductions in speed as there have been in other areas that have done the same thing. I cannot imagine the outcome being hugely different. The information that you will have is likely to be about the economics of the approach. That work has not been done elsewhere and will be pretty robust. We are also doing that work for Belfast, which has a different model that looks only at the city centre. In a way, looking at the cost effectiveness of one model versus the cost effectiveness of the other provides a good comparison.

The Convener

We will have to leave it there, purely because we are short of time. I know that a couple of people wanted to come in, and I apologise for not reaching them.

I thank the panel members for coming in this morning and for giving evidence to the committee. It is always very helpful to hear the views of a wide variety of people. Thank you very much for giving us your time.

I suspend the meeting for five minutes to allow the panel to depart.

10:25 Meeting suspended.  



10:33 On resuming—  



The Convener

I welcome our second panel of witnesses this morning: Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity; and Donna Turnbull, road safety policy manager, and Stuart Wilson, national operations manager, from the Scottish Government. We will go straight to questions.

Richard Lyle

Good morning, cabinet secretary. Will you outline the Scottish Government’s view on the proposals in the bill and advise whether and how that view has changed since the publication of the Atkins and Department for Transport research into the effect of 20mph speed limits?

The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity (Michael Matheson)

The bill is trying to achieve two things: to introduce a standard 20mph speed limit across restricted roads; and to support greater provision of active travel and the benefits that can arise from a 20mph speed limit.

We have been considering several challenges in relation to the bill. For example, we do not know the number of restricted roads in Scotland. There are some restricted roads that we would not want to be 20mph zones and there are roads that are not restricted that we might want to have as 20mph roads. As the bill stands, we do not think that it is the most effective way to take forward the agenda of getting a greater number of 20mph roads and zones in the right places.

One of the key things that the Atkins report confirmed was that in looking to introduce a speed limit on a road, several measures must be put in place to achieve that effectively and to encourage compliance. Speed limits are self-enforcing to a large extent, as the police will tell you. The design of the road and other measures are important elements in supporting compliance with the speed limit.

To some extent the report reinforces our view that taking a blanket approach is not necessarily the best way to ensure that we achieve what we are trying to get from introducing 20mph zones.

Richard Lyle

On 30 October 2018, you wrote to the committee and said:

“we believe that more evidence and more detailed analysis is needed before the measure proposed in the Restricted Roads (20 mph Limits) (Scotland) Bill can be fully supported.”

Do you stand by that?

Michael Matheson

Yes.

Richard Lyle

Thank you.

The Convener

I am mindful that that is very similar to the question that John Finnie wanted to ask. I will bring Mark Ruskell in first and then come back to John Finnie.

Mark Ruskell

I have a brief question on the Atkins report, cabinet secretary. Have you or your team engaged with the report’s conclusion that there is better compliance when 20mph is rolled out over a wider area, rather than just implemented in small, discrete zones outside schools and so on? Do you recognise that it is better to have an area-wide limit?

Michael Matheson

Are you referring to 20mph zones as opposed to 20mph roads? That is not what the bill proposes.

Mark Ruskell

I am referring to the approach that Atkins studied, which is 20mph limits across wider areas—including in Brighton—which the report concluded was more effective than discrete little zones outside schools.

Michael Matheson

In Edinburgh, it has been done by having 80 per cent of the roads covered by 20mph speed limits. However, in coming to that decision, the council used different criteria and a range of different characteristics from those proposed in the bill. The Atkins report reinforces the point that a range of different factors come into play in getting effective 20mph limits on roads and compliance with speed limits, and that zones are one of the elements that can help to support that. That is the approach that has been taken in Edinburgh. Some of the 20mph roads in Edinburgh are not restricted roads and the criteria used in Edinburgh are very different from the approach taken in the bill.

John Finnie

In the letter that you sent to the committee, you talked about analysing some evidence and working collaboratively with the Department for Transport and others. Who are those others and will you update us on the information that you have received as a result of that exercise?

Michael Matheson

There is the Atkins report itself. One of the drivers for the bill—this came up in discussions with Mr Ruskell—is concern about how the TRO process operates. Some local authorities are more proactive than others in relation to TROs and there are concerns about them being overly bureaucratic and taking too long.

Part of the work that we have been doing with SCOTS and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities looks at the existing TRO process. The feedback that we have had so far is that they believe, by and large, that it is a robust mechanism that allows local communities to engage in the process—so it is an effective mechanism—but we could streamline it in some way to make the process quicker.

We have had the discussions with SCOTS and COSLA and we are about to issue a questionnaire to all local authorities, to get further details from them around the TRO process; that will take place in the next couple of weeks. Once we have the feedback, we will be in a position to distil the information and have the evidence to decide what other measures we can take forward to support and encourage the introduction of 20mph zones or roads in areas where it is appropriate to do so.

John Finnie

Will you confirm the timeframe for that? You said that the questionnaires will go out in the next couple of weeks. What is the turnaround period and the period for analysis afterwards?

Michael Matheson

Before I ask Donna Turnbull to say a bit more about that, as far as I understand, the questionnaire has now been drafted—that was through one of the working groups. It will go out in the next few weeks and I would expect to get feedback over the next couple of months and to have all the information—as well as the outcome of our discussions with COSLA and SCOTS around what measures we could look at taking forward—collated in autumn this year.

Donna Turnbull (Scottish Government)

I think that that timeframe is realistic, but it depends on what comes back from the questionnaires. We hope that the questionnaires are a trigger for more intensive, on-going engagement with local authorities, so that we can better understand and get into the detail behind some of the processes, and get their views and thoughts on any mechanisms or parts of the process that we can streamline or make consistent across Scotland. I think that autumn is probably a good timescale.

Michael Matheson

It is fair to say that part of the feedback that we have had from some local authorities is that additional guidance on some aspects would assist them with consistency of approach. That is something that we can look at doing. Once we have distilled all the information, we will be in a position to look at the measures that we can take forward.

John Finnie

Would it be possible to share the questionnaire and the feedback with the committee?

Michael Matheson

I am more than happy to do that.

John Finnie

Many thanks.

Jamie Greene

I thank the cabinet secretary for answering the question that I had not yet asked; that is an excellent talent. Maybe I should rephrase the question.

Michael Matheson

I will answer it again; maybe I could do it better the second time round.

Jamie Greene

I am sure that it was adequate the first time.

Currently, a local authority needs to go through a process to alter a 30mph road, if it thinks that it would be better suited as a 20mph zone. In effect, the bill seeks to do the reverse: the default will be 20mph and if a local authority feels that a road should have a 30mph limit, it will have to go through a similar process. Part of the reason for the bill is the fact that there is criticism of the current process—the timescales, the cost and so on. If the bill is not passed, will the cabinet secretary give a commitment that if local authorities have any concerns about implementing 20mph zones in their areas, the Government will make it easier for them to do so and will help to roll those out, when and where required?

Michael Matheson

The member raises a fair point. Part of the reason why we have engaged COSLA and SCOTS in the process is to understand what the issues of concern are.

I will give a practical example. One of the concerns that has been raised is the length of time that it takes to go through the TRO process, a significant part of which is spent on the consultation exercise. I am keen not to see communities lose the opportunity to be involved in the consultation exercise, but there are two parts to it: a statutory consultation element; and a public consultation element—the statutory consultation takes place first, followed by the public consultation. One of the suggestions that I have made is to bring the two together, so that they run simultaneously. If we can do that, I am more than happy to look at taking that potential option forward. However, I do not want to see communities curtailed in their ability to engage in the consultation process. There is a balance to be struck.

I am certainly open to looking at how we can improve the system. If we can identify how to speed it up and get greater consistency of application, I give an undertaking to be prepared to do that. The exercise that we are undertaking is to try to achieve that.

10:45  



Jamie Greene

I have spoken to a lot of local authorities about the bill, and they have fed back their concerns about not having done a road mapping exercise, which they have neither the resource nor the time to do.

Might there be a general issue around whether speed limits are being put up or brought down? Would seeking to take a 20mph limit back up to 30mph come up against more opposition in a consultation process, even if that was just because of how such a change would be perceived?

Michael Matheson

Jamie Greene’s latter point is a good one. I rarely get representations from communities in my constituency who are opposed to the idea of moving to a 20mph speed limit or zone. However, I suspect that if they were expecting to go to a 20mph zone or speed limit and they were told that it was going up to 30mph, I would get a significant level of representations from people who opposed that. As ever, people would feel that they were losing out on something. Jamie Greene makes a reasonable point.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have listened to some of the debate on the bill in the media. People have often referred to cities and towns where a blanket approach has been taken, but it is important to recognise that the bill intends to apply limits not to a town or a city, but to a country. The situation is that our local authorities do not have information on restricted roads, and there are thousands of restricted roads in Scotland. Most of them have been noted down on paper over many, many decades. It would be a massive undertaking for individual local authorities to identify, go through and collate all the information.

I return to my earlier point. In Edinburgh, the speed restriction did not apply just on restricted roads; it applied on those roads where the council thought it most appropriate to reduce the limit to 20mph. There will be roads where, in my view, it would not be appropriate for councils to go to 20mph and where I think that we would be creating an unnecessary process.

It would be better if matters were driven at a local level, by councils identifying the roads and areas that they think should be 20mph zones or have 20mph limits.

John Finnie

I am always very frustrated by the phrase, “We don’t know.” Local authorities have an obligation to have an asset register; they are obliged to know what they own; and they are obliged to inspect things and repair them. I know that you will say that that is nothing to do with you and that it is a local authority matter, but you are the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity. Does it not seem passing strange that we do not know the categories of roads across Scotland?

Michael Matheson

Local authorities will not know because of how the records have been kept historically. Prior to the disaggregation of councils in 1996, the previous authorities had a whole host of restricted roads, but now that the current local authorities have responsibility for them, because they have not had to deal with them, they will not have collated the information. As I said, a paper exercise has been done over many, many decades.

I agree with you that that is frustrating and that it would be easier if the information was in a single database, but the reality is that it is not. Identifying restricted roads would be an extremely time-consuming and detailed exercise for individual local authorities to undertake—that is just the reality of the situation.

John Finnie

In that case, you would not anticipate that councils will make representations to you for funding to maintain those roads.

Michael Matheson

These are already local authority roads, and they will have unrestricted roads for which they are responsible. We are not just talking about restricted roads; they are responsible for a whole host of different roads. Identifying them would require them to go through a process, in order to get a database with a level of information that allows them to understand what impact the bill would have on their areas.

The Convener

On a general point, it is difficult to manage the questioning if we are all struggling to ask the questions that we want to ask. I ask members to be careful to keep to the agreed lines of questioning. Not doing so means that some members will feel aggrieved, because their question has been answered before they get to ask it.

Mark Ruskell

I am glad that the cabinet secretary has mentioned the work of the implementation group. I have been working constructively with Donna Turnbull, COSLA and SCOTS for some time. I do not think that the cabinet secretary has seen some of the early survey data that has come back ahead of the autumn, when more work can be done. About 21 per cent of local authorities have responded to say that they have already identified the roads that they would wish to switch to a 20mph limit and those on which they would retain a 30mph limit. Another 29 per cent say that they have the asset data to allow roads to be identified. There is already some progress being made in local authorities.

How do we ensure consistency? Information is coming back from local authorities to the effect that they would still not necessarily, even if the process was simpler, stick to Scottish Government policy and introduce 20mph limits in residential areas; for example, we heard that clearly from Scottish Borders Council this morning. The cabinet secretary’s local authority, Falkirk Council, has introduced virtually no 20mph limits in residential areas, whereas across the Kincardine bridge, Clackmannanshire Council has made 20mph the limit in virtually every residential area. The idea that a simple change to the TRO process will have any effect at all contradicts the evidence that we are hearing from some councils.

Michael Matheson

You said that about 21 per cent of local authorities already have the data to hand. I am not dismissing your point, but that means that nearly 80 per cent do not have the data. It is a major undertaking for any local authority to collect the data. It is good that some local authorities have the information, but the vast majority do not. We should not dismiss that.

We are doing work on inconsistency in approaches. We are trying to understand why neighbouring local authorities take different approaches to 20mph zones, and what we can do through processes, guidance and information to achieve a more consistent approach. Once we have had feedback on that from councils, we will understand better what we can put in place that would assist in achieving greater consistency across local authorities’ approaches.

Maureen Watt

The argument is made that creating a national 20mph limit on restricted roads would result in cultural change and a change in attitudes to vehicle speeds, which might produce better results than the current piecemeal implementation of 20mph limits. What is your view on that argument?

Michael Matheson

It is clear that drivers take a number of factors into account in relation to the speed at which they go, including the design and layout of the road and whether it has lighting. All those issues need to be taken into account in trying to achieve compliance with any speed limit, including a 20mph speed limit. One of the biggest challenges that we will always face in trying to change behaviour is in creating a cultural shift. By and large, that takes a long time and can be difficult to achieve.

The best way to achieve the cultural shift that we are looking for is to have 20mph limits and 20mph zones in areas where we can most effectively ensure compliance, and to put in place the range of measures that need to be in place to support that. We know that just changing the speed limit does not work in itself, and that the other factors that have to be taken into account to encourage compliance are extremely important. That is why it is better to introduce 20mph limits where we think that that is most appropriate and where compliance can be achieved. In that way, we will get the cultural shift that is necessary to go along with the changes—but that always takes time.

The Convener

From the evidence that we are hearing, there seem to be different views on 20mph speed limits, depending on whether a council has large rural or large urban areas. A lot of councils with large rural areas feel that a blanket 20mph speed limit is not appropriate. I want to push you on that, cabinet secretary. Councils are in a position to amend TROs, so are not councillors the best people to make decisions about the roads that they control, on the basis that they have local knowledge about where there should be 20mph speed limits?

Michael Matheson

Yes. However, there is inconsistency in how local authorities do that. I am conscious that some councils, such as Highland Council, have long rural roads—restricted or not—that would be affected by the proposed change, so councils might have to look at changing the restrictions. My view is that, in order to achieve compliance and the benefits that come from it, the best approach is a local process that identifies the relevant roads and areas and introduces measures that help to improve compliance with the speed limits, rather than a blanket approach being taken and having to unpick from that the roads on which we do not want 20mph speed limits.

Colin Smyth

We have talked a lot about the process and issues of consistency, and about whether the existing TRO process can be improved to speed it up and bring greater consistency across local authorities. However, I am not clear what the Government’s vision of the final outcome on speed limits in residential areas is. Do you believe that we should, across Scotland, have something like what has been done in Edinburgh, with, in effect, all residential areas being 20mph zones? Should we have something that is more like what has been done in the Borders, where there are 20mph zones only around schools? What is the Government’s position? We can talk about the process and how we get there, but what do you want to achieve?

Michael Matheson

“Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to 2020” sets out the Government’s approach. It includes 20mph zones and 20mph speed limits, and all the work on reducing casualties and injuries that are caused by road traffic accidents. We do not intend to direct local authorities to do X, Y or Z in their areas. There are different environments: different approaches will be appropriate.

What I hear is that local authorities have an issue with the tools that they have. They feel that they could be improved and that more or clearer guidance would support a more consistent approach in application of 20mph speed limits and 20mph zones. In the process that we are undertaking with them just now we are asking what we can do to help them to take a more consistent approach.

However, it is for them to decide how they will apply that in their areas. It is not for the Government to tell the Borders Council, for example, where it should put 20mph zones, but we should give as much help and support as possible, and we should provide guidance and information to assist councils in making decisions.

We should also look at the process, to ensure that local authorities feel that it is fit for purpose and helpful to them. In the end, it will be local elected members who decide exactly where in their areas to put 20mph limits and 20mph zones.

Colin Smyth

There will be differences between rural and urban areas, but we have a situation at the moment in which a housing estate in one town does not have a 20mph zone while an almost identical housing estate in Edinburgh does. I am keen to know whether the Government believes that 20mph zones in residential areas are the right thing, or that they should not be put in some areas? I know that we have talked about local decisions, but we have a situation in which two identical places have different speed limits. I am keen to know on which side the Government comes down on that issue, because that will guide whether your desire for consistency is about increasing significantly across Scotland the number of 20mph zones—which I believe is needed—or is just about improving the speed of processing a TRO.

Michael Matheson

We are in favour of 20mph zones where there is good evidence that they should be introduced, and we would encourage local authorities to do that. However, there is inconsistency in how local authorities go about that. Stuart Wilson will go through some of the criteria that we ask local authorities to look at in making decisions. One local authority might decide to make a housing estate a 20mph zone while another chooses not to do the same in a similar housing estate, so we need to ask whether they are applying the same criteria so that there is consistency in outcomes when authorities consider these matters.

11:00  



Stuart Wilson (Scottish Government)

The key message that we would like to send is that authorities need to have the right limit for the right place. The current speed limit guidance makes it clear that consistency and legibility are important. A driver in North Lanarkshire and a driver in Falkirk should have a common understanding of a road, given the environment there. However, I worked for Falkirk Council for five years and for North Lanarkshire Council for the preceding five years, so I know that those two local authorities came to different positions on advisory 20mph limits, despite having exactly the same evidence base, because of resources and because their plans set out the merits and non-merits of doing the same thing.

Transport Scotland has sought to deliver 20mph limits on parts of our network where we have felt that evidence supported it, but in other places we will not do it because we think that the evidence does not support it. It is important to local authorities that they can choose, based on the evidence that is available to them and their community inputs. One of the thresholds that we used in the pilot 20mph schemes was that there should be average speed on the road of 24mph or less, which reflects the guidance that such limits should be self-enforcing. The input that we got from the police was that limits have to work without additional enforcement.

We come back to the key question of whether, if we do something, we expect it to have a benefit. In general, it is reasonable for speed limits in residential side streets to be 20mph: there is no argument about that. However, there might be, running through groups of residential streets that are restricted roads, main roads for which there is a less sound case for that. In such situations, there will always be a margin—a one-size-fits-all approach cannot be taken. Our current guidance, the road safety framework and the “Strategic Road Safety Plan 2016” talk about the right limit for the right place being key.

Colin Smyth

At the moment, no one would dream of having anything more than 30mph as a maximum in a housing estate in a very built-up area. That is national policy. You are saying that the Government’s desire is that, in such areas, the limit be set at 20mph.

Stuart Wilson

The “Strategic Road Safety Plan 2016” has 20 actions in it, nine of which talk about speed management. We recognise completely that managing speed effectively is a good thing to do. However, managing speed effectively and changing speed limits are not necessarily the same thing.

There are plenty of places on the road network that we could say should obviously be 20mph zones and be restricted roads, or about which we could decide—as the City of Edinburgh Council has done—that although it is not a restricted road, it is perfectly appropriate for the speed limit to be 20mph. However, at the moment we are not in a position to draw a map of the network that would give you the picture of what that looks like.

Michael Matheson

Mr Smyth asked how, of two identical housing estates in different local authority areas, one is a 20mph zone and one is not. Our approach is to think that such estates should most likely be 20mph zones. However, local authorities do not always arrive at the same decision, so part of the work that we are doing is to look at what we can put in place to achieve greater consistency, so that the authority that decided that the housing estate should not be a 20mph zone would be in a position in which it would decide that it would be better for it to be a 20mph zone.

Colin Smyth

That consistency is about getting authorities to have 20mph zones, is it not?

Michael Matheson

In areas where there is a good evidence base to justify a 20mph limit, that is what we would expect to happen.

Jamie Greene

We have heard a lot about the financial memorandum and the level of support that the Government might, or might not, offer local authorities to implement the bill if it is passed, and we have heard concerns that the cost of implementing the bill might have been underestimated. Do you have any views on that? Would the Government be minded to give additional support—specifically financial support—to local authorities to implement the bill if it is passed?

Michael Matheson

We think that the costs have been underestimated. The reality is that we do not know what the cost of introducing the proposals in the bill will be. That is largely because of issues around restricted and unrestricted roads: we do not know their numbers, so we do not know what the cost of implementation would be.

We have to keep it in mind that there are also for councils the additional process costs of collating the information. If councils were to choose to have some restricted roads with a higher limit of 30mph, they would have to go through the TRO process to take them up to 30mph, and there are costs associated with that.

We can give you a couple of examples of costs that we do not think have been considered. In the trunk road network we have identified about 40 areas of concern—Stuart Wilson can give the committee some insight into the costs associated with introducing a 20mph limit on those roads.

The Convener

I encourage you to be brief, Stuart.

Stuart Wilson

We have put in a couple of 20mph limits. If we extrapolate from the cost of that, just the change would cost about £1 million. If we add buffer zones that are needed to reflect the fact that it is not advisable for national 60mph speed limit roads to come straight into roads on which there is a 20mph limit, that cost would double to £2 million. That is our current approximation of changing restricted roads on the trunk network to 20mph.

Jamie Greene

I am sorry to interrupt, but I want to go back to my original question. If the Parliament chooses to pass the bill, will the Scottish Government give local authorities the additional funding that they think they need to implement it? Local authorities are saying to us that they do not have the money, but it has to come from somewhere.

Michael Matheson

There is no allocation in my budget for delivering the bill. If Parliament is of a mind to support the bill and passes it, any financial support that we would have to give local authorities—I recognise that we would have to give them financial support to assist them in implementing it—would have to come out of current budget allocations. That would have to be determined at the time.

Maureen Watt

We heard earlier that the City of Edinburgh Council had accessed support through Sustrans and active travel funding. Is there an opportunity for that to be rolled out further?

Michael Matheson

Do you mean is there the opportunity to use the active travel budget for such work?

Maureen Watt

Yes. Dr Jepson suggested that if there were 20mph zones there would be more active travel—in particular, cycling.

Michael Matheson

Just for clarification, are you asking whether we could use the active travel budget to pay for implementation of the bill if it were passed by Parliament?

Maureen Watt

Yes.

Michael Matheson

That could be an option. However, we do not know what the costs of the bill would be, and we think that they have been significantly underestimated. If we did use active travel money for implementation, that would have an impact on all the other active travel measures; it would be to their detriment.

Peter Chapman

Should the bill be passed, an effect of that would be that there would be a requirement in places including Edinburgh to remove the repeater 20mph signs. Would the Government consider changing the regulations so that there would be no need to remove the 20mph repeater signs? There is a cost to put them up, but there is also a cost to take them down.

Michael Matheson

As it stands, repeater signs are not used for 30mph roads—there is no requirement on councils in that respect. It seems to be logical that if the default limit were to become 20mph, the requirement for repeater signs should be removed. However, there are issues related to shifting the culture and around compliance that suggest that we should keep repeater signs or even increase their number. We would give that due consideration if the bill were passed. Mr Chapman is correct to say that there will be a cost attached to that.

John Mason

I would like to pursue the point that was made by Mr Chapman. At the moment, we have guidance that 30mph repeater signs are not allowed in 30mph zones. You may be familiar with Clyde gateway, which is a major new road in the east end of Glasgow. It is a dual carriageway with two lanes each way and no parking. It feels like a 40mph or 50mph road and people drive at 40mph or 50mph. The community would like there to be 30mph repeater signs on that road, but the council says that it is not allowed to install those. Would you be willing to look at that issue, whichever way we go on speed limits?

Michael Matheson

We are getting into the technical regulations on speed limits, so I ask Stuart Wilson to comment.

Stuart Wilson

The question arises again of whether that is the right limit in the right place, if people’s impression is that it is a road on which they would be able to go faster. I am not familiar with the detail of the reasons why we do not put 30mph repeater signs in; that is to do with the long-standing regulations. However, as Mr Matheson said, if the bill was passed, a generally similar principle could apply to 20mph signs. I would have to come back to the committee to give a more specific answer on 30mph signs.

John Mason

That is okay—I realise that the issue is wider than the bill.

Michael Matheson

I know the area that you mean and I understand why you have concerns.

John Mason

I made the point in passing.

The financial memorandum refers to £450,000 for marketing. That is based on the cost of previous campaigns on cancer and all sorts of things. If the bill was passed, even if the Government was not keen on it, would the Government be willing to roll out such marketing or promotion across the country? Is that figure reasonable? Having a default limit of 20mph instead of 30mph would be a major change.

Michael Matheson

When I was the Minister for Public Health—I am conscious that another former Minister for Public Health is here—we often had a variety of public information campaigns on a range of conditions. By and large, a six-week campaign costs about £500,000 for preparation, research work, media work and assessing its impact at the end. That applies to cancer information programmes, for example.

The culture was talked about earlier. Creating a cultural shift takes much longer. I suspect that, if the bill was passed and we went to a default limit of 20mph, the campaign would need to go way beyond six weeks; it would need to take place over an extended period to reinforce the message. As a result, the cost would increase. I do not know how long the campaign would have to be, but I suspect that it would have to be carried out over an extended period of months, if not a couple of years, to drive the message home.

John Mason

It is difficult to predict the time or the cost—the smoking ban, for example, came in more easily than many of us expected. Can you put a cost on the marketing or promotion in relation to the bill?

Michael Matheson

I cannot—it would be unfair for me to do so. As I said, when I was the Minister for Public Health, the average cost of a six-week campaign was about £500,000. A campaign on the bill would have to be sustained over an extended period; you can do the sums.

John Mason

Could the cost be £2 million?

Michael Matheson

I suspect that we would be talking about several million pounds for an information campaign over an extended period.

John Finnie

What is your view on the cost benefit ratio of a national 20mph speed limit on restricted roads, given the casualty reductions that organisations such as the Glasgow Centre for Population Health predict?

Michael Matheson

I am aware of the centre’s work. To an extent, it reinforces our view that 20mph limits should apply in the places that can gain the biggest benefit and get the greatest level of compliance, which reduces the risk of casualties from road traffic accidents. Benefits come from having 20mph speed limits and zones. The evidence base should be used locally to determine where such limits can best be achieved and complied with.

John Finnie

For the avoidance of doubt, will you confirm that the benefits include financial benefits? You have talked about the downside, such as the administration costs of TROs.

Michael Matheson

Do you mean the cost benefit of having a 20mph zone?

John Finnie

Indeed.

Michael Matheson

Having fewer accidents reduces the associated health costs. Depending on the nature of an accident, it could have a long-term financial impact on an individual if they were significantly disabled or injured. There are cost benefits.

11:15  



John Finnie

It might seem unpleasant to ask this—I touched on it briefly with Police Scotland—but what is the cost of a life? What is the cost of a child fatality?

Michael Matheson

Are you asking about the financial cost?

John Finnie

Yes, indeed.

Michael Matheson

I will ask Stuart Wilson to give you some detail on that.

Stuart Wilson

The costs for local networks are a little less, but the cost of a trunk road fatality is a little over £2 million; if you were to monetise the cost of such a death, that is the figure that you would put on it.

John Finnie

In Wales, between 1 January 2011 and 31 December 2013, 14,639 people were killed or injured on 30mph limit roads. The projection is that reducing the limit from 30mph to 20mph could prevent six to 10 deaths and between 1,203 and 1,978 injuries per year, with a total prevention value of £58 to £94 million. The cost is clearly wider than the cost of signs and some administrative inconvenience.

Michael Matheson

Yes, of course it is.

Mark Ruskell

Do you acknowledge that, if we move to a national default 20mph limit on restricted roads where people live, work and play, there will be a greater reduction in casualty numbers and more lives will be saved than is the case under the current piecemeal approach to what is in place today?

Michael Matheson

That is potentially the case. The evidence shows that drivers take into account a range of factors in complying with the speed limit, including road design, road features and the location of a road. For example, if there is no housing on a road, people feel that they can go faster on it. That is why we think that it is better that we address that at a local level by identifying the areas where we can get the greatest level of compliance, with the greatest benefits.

Mark Ruskell

I appreciate that you wish to drive compliance further—I wish to do the same—but do you acknowledge that, even with a modest speed reduction of say 1mph to 2mph, which the bill is predicated on, we will still save more lives by proceeding on a population-level basis than we would by taking a piecemeal approach with lots of lumps and bumps outside schools?

Michael Matheson

Our view is that the greater use of 20mph zones on roads is the right thing to do in order to help reduce risk and casualty numbers and to make people feel safer. We think that that should be taken forward at a local level in areas where we can get the greatest benefits from it, rather than taking a blanket approach, which the bill proposes. If we can do that in a way that achieves greater levels of compliance, rather than just doing it on a blanket basis in areas where compliance might not be good, we will reduce the potential casualty impact and health impacts.

The police have said that road speed limits are effectively self-enforcing—we should not ignore that. That is why it is important that we take an evidence-based approach to the areas in which we choose to locate the zones in order to get the maximum benefit. That is to some extent the approach that the City of Edinburgh Council has taken. It has used different criteria from those in the bill; it looked at a range of factors in determining where it thought that the 20mph zones should be—they were not restricted to restricted roads—in order to address areas where it thought it could get better compliance.

Mark Ruskell

With all due respect, Edinburgh has rolled that approach out on a sign-only basis, but it has also invested a limited amount of funds in putting in additional infrastructure in areas where there are potentially high casualty rates and high footfall. Do you not see that, within an area-wide 20mph limit across Scotland, on restricted roads, it is still possible to target resources to areas where compliance is poor, whether that be through police enforcement activity or additional investment by councils in speed reduction measures? The two are not mutually exclusive. We have a blanket 30mph limit at the moment. It is possible to switch to a blanket 20mph limit and then invest in those areas where we see continued compliance issues.

Michael Matheson

Part of the challenge that we have is that we do not know the extent of the network that will be affected by the bill.

Mark Ruskell

Fifty per cent of councils do.

Michael Matheson

We do not know—that is the reality. You say that we should focus on addressing compliance issues, but to what extent? We do not know the extent of the network that will be affected.

The Convener

I thank Mark Ruskell and the cabinet secretary. We are slightly ahead of schedule, and I think that one of the cabinet secretary’s officials is due to turn up shortly. With the committee’s agreement, I will move away from items 2 and 3 and move straight on to items 4 and 5. That will allow the cabinet secretary to rearrange his officials. We can move back to the other items afterwards. Is the committee happy to do that?

Members indicated agreement.

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Fourth meeting transcript

The Convener (Edward Mountain)

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the committee’s 10th meeting in 2019. I ask you all to ensure that your mobile phones are on silent. We have received apologies from Gail Ross, who is unable to attend the meeting. I welcome Claudia Beamish, who is attending the meeting for the only public agenda item: agenda item 1, which is on the Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill. This is our fifth and final evidence session on the bill, and we will take evidence from the member in charge of the bill, Mark Ruskell, from his colleagues and from officials.

I welcome Mark Ruskell; Malachy Clarke, Mr Ruskell’s researcher; Andrew Mylne, head of the Scottish Parliament’s non-Government bills unit; and Claudia Bennett, from the office of the solicitor to the Scottish Parliament.

Mark, I will shortly ask you to give an opening statement of up to three minutes, and we will then move to questions. I know that some of you have given evidence before, but you do not need to touch the microphones. If you just catch my eye, Mark, I will get you to bring in the right people. I now invite you to make an opening statement.

Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

When I was at school, a classmate of mine was struck down and killed while out playing on his bike. He was not killed outside the school gates; he was killed in the residential street where he lived, like four fifths of child casualties on our roads.

Speed limits of 20mph make a big contribution to the safety of everyone on the streets where we live, especially children. They reduce speed, prevent deaths and injuries and encourage choices to walk and cycle. Public support for them continues to grow year on year.

A small reduction in speed has a big effect in reducing casualties, especially when scaled up nationally. As you have heard in evidence already, every 1mph reduction in speed means at least a 5 per cent reduction in the number of accidents. We estimate that nearly 600 casualties will be prevented every single year, based on an average speed reduction of just a couple of miles per hour.

Government policy in Scotland and at Westminster recognises that 20mph limits should be the norm on the streets where we live. That has been backed up by the World Health Organization, the European Union and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

However, 20mph streets are often isolated exceptions to a blanket 30mph rule, which was set back in the 1930s. I am asking the committee to consider the fundamental question: what should the default limit be on restricted roads? If the answer to that question is 20mph, the Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill is the only way to deliver that in a way that is nationally consistent, timely and cost effective.

In my previous role as a councillor, I witnessed huge frustration from communities who wanted a 20mph limit but were denied that. They were often told that it was not a priority for the council, that it might get scheduled in several years’ time, that councillors were sceptical, that there was no budget for repeater signs or that an area with an active community council had made a better case than theirs.

When I was elected as an MSP, I looked at the national picture and saw that it was very similar. Although Clackmannanshire and Fife councils had managed, painfully, to roll out 20mph limits in almost every residential area by seeking exemption after exemption from the 30mph limit, other councils had struggled or had scrapped the 20mph roll-out completely.

After two and a half years of working on the proposal for this bill with academics, councils, road safety organisations, Police Scotland, Transport Scotland and many others, I believe that it is time to end the illogical 30mph blanket speed limit and for councils to use the current mechanism for roads where they wish to retain a 30mph limit. There is a clear opportunity for Scotland to take the lead, as we did on the smoking ban, and to make a lasting public health intervention that will make our streets safer for generations to come.

The Convener

Thank you. We will move straight to questions, of which there are a lot.

Richard Lyle (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

Good morning. Some of us may agree with the comments that Mark Ruskell has just made, but others do not. What is his response to the view of witnesses who have told the committee that a national 20mph speed limit is too broad a brush and that the current arrangements, which allow local authorities to set 20mph limits on roads where they consider that to be appropriate, should remain in place?

Mark Ruskell

As I said in my opening statement, the current system is not working. It is not delivering protection for children and vulnerable road users throughout Scotland. Children in the Borders, for example, do not have 20mph limits in their residential streets, whereas children in Edinburgh do.

The current system is cumbersome and leads to inconsistency. I have already outlined some of the reasons why that is so. Approaching the situation from the perspective of creating a national default will ensure that we have consistency across Scotland. It is important to emphasise that councils will still have the ability to exempt arterial and through roads from a default 20mph limit where that makes sense. That will enable councils to use the existing mechanism to fine tune the layout of 20mph and 30mph zones in communities to reflect the local road conditions.

Richard Lyle

What evidence do you have to support claims that setting a 20mph speed limit on all restricted roads will lead to a culture change in driver attitudes to speeding in urban areas?

Mark Ruskell

We have seen examples of area-wide 20mph roll-outs across the country, and the committee has heard evidence from Edinburgh and from more rural local authorities. The Atkins report showed that the current roll-out of 20mph makes it very difficult to deliver that cultural change, because there are isolated 20mph zones outside schools, which do not reinforce the message that the national speed limit for restricted roads should be 20mph. The situation is very piecemeal and confusing for drivers.

It is important that we move towards a national default to ensure that there is consistency. We have done a lot of work with academics on the advantages of a national default in terms of education and reinforcing messages about a 20mph limit. Through a campaign of national education, and police enforcement combined with work with communities to point out to drivers the implications if they speed in terms of causing an accident or being caught, we can create a very strong message about the importance of the 20mph limit.

I will be honest and say that it has not been done before. All the 20mph roll-outs that we have seen so far have been incredibly piecemeal outside of schools. However, there is evidence from places where a 20mph limit has been rolled out in a wider area and has been more effective at reducing speed. That has enabled local authorities such as Bristol to do more work in communities to reinforce the importance of 20mph, and there are signs that that has had a good effect. For example, the figures from Bristol on speed reduction and casualty reduction are very strong. It does not make sense to simply reduce the speed limit within 100m of a school gate. If it is an important speed limit for restricted roads near schools where people live, it is an important speed limit for all restricted roads where people live.

When Chief Superintendent Carle gave evidence to this committee, he said:

“to borrow a phrase from the violence reduction unit ... road violence is preventable, not inevitable. We need to make inappropriate speeding and exceeding speed limits as socially unacceptable as drink driving.”—[Official Report, Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, 6 March 2019; c 21.]

That is an important point, and I would argue that you can only do that if a safe limit is established nationally.

My other point is on wider cultural change. If the bill becomes law, the “Highway Code” will be updated and new drivers who are learning to drive on the streets of Edinburgh and around the country will be driving on roads with 20mph speed limits. There will be national consistency. The new drivers who will be the drivers of tomorrow will be trained on 20mph roads. That cultural change can be brought about over time, but the starting point is a sensible speed limit.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I want to pick up on the remark that the current system is not working. I do so in the context of the helpful report that you have provided from the transport research institute, which, in table 1 on page 5, replicates the Scottish Government’s road casualty figures and gives 10 years of numbers. Looking at the headline figures, it is very clear that there were 255 fatal accidents in 2007 and 141 in 2017, which is almost half the 2007 figure. Overall, the figure has gone from 12,500 to 7,000. When I look down the table at the figures for built-up roads, there is a similar pattern, although progress on fatal accidents is slightly erratic. Is it fair to say not that the current system is not working, but that the changes in the bill would augment the many other safety initiatives that are already bringing benefits? Is that not the proper way to look at the matter? The 20mph limit is not the magic bullet that will take those numbers down to zero.

Mark Ruskell

The evidence shows that 20mph limits can make a significant contribution to tackling these issues. I would point out that the transport research institute report contains significant statistics on people who are killed and seriously injured on our rural A and B roads, which are not covered by the bill, and it is clear that the police focus a lot of their resource on those roads. However, table 2 shows that the numbers of seriously injured people are significantly higher on roads in built-up areas than on roads in non-built-up areas.

There is an important point to make here about the level of injuries outside our homes and on our streets in our residential communities. That raises questions about whether councils or the police are prioritising those particular types of injuries. Of course, those statistics do not capture the near misses. Some people are injured, but others have their confidence severely dented by a near miss. They suffer a psychological impact that can put them off walking and cycling. We need more care and attention on the streets where we live, work and play. Serious accidents happen on those streets and there is a need to drive up the levels of walking and cycling there.

Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

Thank you for introducing the bill. It has been a fascinating subject for the committee.

I want to return to Mr Lyle’s original question. What evidence do you have to support claims that a 20mph speed limit on restricted roads will lead to a culture change? I understand from your response to Mr Lyle that there is no evidence, because it has not been done before. The only evidence is from localised blanket changes in areas such as Edinburgh and Bristol. The committee heard evidence that in those areas the reduction in speed was nominal. A 30 per cent cut in the speed limit equated to a small reduction of 1 or 2mph in average speed, which does not seem to me to be evidence to support your proposition. Do you have more concrete evidence that there will genuinely be a shift in driver behaviour?

10:15  



Mark Ruskell

As I said in my opening remarks, an average speed reduction of a couple of miles per hour is significant. I would not discount the benefits that can come from that. You will see from the financial and policy memoranda that accompany the bill that even a speed reduction of 1 to 2mph can prevent 600 casualties in Scotland every single year. The average life of a speed sign is 30 years; you can do the maths and work out how many lives would be saved and severe injuries prevented as a result of the change.

The bill is predicated on a modest reduction in average speed. I think that you heard in evidence that people who drive at higher speeds reduce their speed at a more significant rate than people who go at a lower speed do, so the statistics on average speed do not fully show what is happening on our roads.

However, even if we accept the average speed reductions that we are seeing as a result of roll-out in Edinburgh, Portsmouth, Calderdale and other areas, we can see that they are very significant. If, on the back of that, we drive further culture change by building in the approach that I discussed with Mr Lyle—national education, enforcement and reinforcing the approach throughout Scotland—we can get greater speed reductions.

However, the bill is not predicated on our doing that; it is based on what we know already, which is that roll-out of 20mph will lead to a significant reduction in casualties and deaths in Scotland and improvements in relation to walking and cycling. If we are looking for a cost-effective public health measure that can be applied across the whole of Scotland, this is it.

We are seeing cultural change in Scotland. Survation produced a poll two years ago that showed that—if we discount the people who did not have an opinion—around 66 per cent of people supported a default 20mph limit in their communities. We repeated that work last week and showed that the proportion has gone up to 72 per cent.

That reflects some of the evidence from Edinburgh, which is that, post-implementation, public support for 20mph goes up. You heard that from Ruth Jepson. Opposition to 20mph in Edinburgh has gone down. We are seeing a cultural shift here, anyway, where drivers and communities are becoming more aware of 20 and are waking up to the benefits.

That is a good basis on which to build and drive the benefits further. The bill is predicated on modest benefits. Can we go further? Yes, the evidence suggests that we can. Can I pinpoint exactly what the speed reduction will be in 10 years’ time? No.

Jamie Greene

You said that the bill’s approach is modest, but why do we have to cut the speed limit by a third to achieve a 1mph reduction in average speed? Is that really the only way to achieve that? Are there better ways to reduce average speeds than by making such a huge reduction in the statutory speed limit?

Mark Ruskell

The evidence shows that this is the most cost-effective way to achieve that. You asked about other ways to reduce speed. Putting speed humps on every restricted road would be incredibly costly. The speed limit is traffic law, for which there is a well-established framework. We have restricted roads, with a 30mph speed limit. A low-cost intervention is to reduce that speed limit to 20mph.

To carry out interventions to physically design every single road to reduce speed would be a vast public expense. That is not what we do at the moment: the roads around Edinburgh were not designed to be driven at 30mph; someone could drive up Holyrood Road at 40 or 50mph if they wanted to, but there is an element of self-enforcement of speed limits. That is what we currently have with the designation of speed limits in this country. What I am proposing is not to rip up the system but to go with the grain of the system and to reduce speed from 30mph to 20mph. That will result in a modest but substantial reduction in the number of speeding casualties.

Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

I would like to follow up on your response to Richard Lyle’s question. You seem to be somewhat critical of the local authorities that have not gone the way that Edinburgh has gone. Surely, however, our authorities have examined their local areas and they know where they want to have 20mph streets. Are they not best placed to decide where to have those streets, rather than our taking a national approach? You seem to be critical of local decision making.

Mark Ruskell

Not at all. I have engaged with many local authorities throughout this process, and with the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland, which represents the heads of transportation in all the local authorities. As a former councillor, I recognise the challenges that councils face. However, we have to bear in mind that the majority of local authorities that have responded to multiple consultations on the bill have supported the measure as being the most cost-effective way to deliver 20mph limits across the areas. I believe that local authorities support the measure and will continue to support it as a way to deliver on the aim.

I agree that councils need to have local discretion on how they implement the 20mph limit and which streets to retain a 30mph limit on. There has been interesting discussion in the committee, including on points that you have raised, Mr Rumbles, about Alford and similar rural communities. I understand where you are coming from in that regard—I live in a rural community myself. If you look at the roll-out that Fife Council has done, you will see that it has decided to create a wider network of 20mph roads in some areas including the through roads in certain villages but that, because of the volume of traffic involved, it has decided not to have that limit in other villages.

It is right that local authorities should decide on the precise nature of the roll-out of the 20mph limit and the retention of a 30mph limit in various villages and areas, but that should be within the context of a national default limit of 20mph. The current context is that there is a national default of 30mph. Local authorities already work with a national speed limit and seek to make adjustments within that to reflect the conditions and requirements of each area, and what is proposed will make it easier for them to do so.

In Fife, the council has had to put in exemption after exemption from the national default because, unfortunately, that is the only tool that councils can use to bring in a default limit of 20mph in their areas. That approach has been costly and time consuming. That is why a substantial number of local authorities are waiting for the bill to be enacted before they do any more with regard to 20mph limits. The legislation will make it simpler and more cost effective to do such things, while retaining councils’ ability to make local decisions about where to retain a 30mph limit and what kind of signs to put up, in consultation with communities.

Maureen Watt (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

You said that the highway code would need to be updated. It is a United Kingdom-wide code. How would it be updated? What has happened in the places in England that you said have introduced the measure?

Mark Ruskell

The highway code is the highway code, and I am not sure whether there would need to be a supplementary page for Scotland. My point is that all the training documents and programmes that are put in place and the work that is done by driving instructors and organisations such as the Institute of Advanced Motorists are predicated on a 30mph speed limit on our restricted roads. I did my driving test in Edinburgh around 30 years ago—I failed it twice—on 30mph roads. The experience now, on 20mph roads, would be very different.

I do not think that changing those training documents to reflect what we would have in Scotland—a default speed limit of 20mph, which is a safer speed limit, on our roads—would be an insurmountable challenge. My colleague has just informed me that there is already a separate highway code for Northern Ireland.

The Convener

Stewart Stevenson has a related legal question.

Stewart Stevenson

My question is directed to the solicitor on the panel, although she may not be able to answer it. I am aware that the Scottish Parliament has powers over signage. As transport minister, I had the power to redesign the lollipop ladies’ lollipop, although we did not do that in a way that was particularly different visually. The manufacturer had stopped making the black piece of plastic round the edge at the required width, so we had to change the spec. The point is that the Scottish Parliament has powers over signage, which could lead to differentiation across the UK. Can you say how widespread that could be, or would you need to research it more fully in order to answer that?

Claudia Bennett (Scottish Parliament)

I am aware that, following the Scotland Act 2016, that area now falls into the devolved remit. I can research that further and come back to you on how far it goes, how it would work and whether there would have to be agreement with the secretary of state.

Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab)

I want to go back to what Mark Ruskell said about the cultural shift. Earlier this week, I received information from 20’s Plenty for Us, which is a UK organisation, on the poll that he mentioned. I understand that it was done specifically in Scotland. It says:

“A new poll ... by Survation shows that 72% of those who expressed an opinion support the introduction of 20mph default speed limits. This has risen from 65% in 2017.”

What are the reasons for the cultural shift? I do not know whether there is any breakdown of the reasons in the poll—probably not, as that may be too sophisticated an analysis. Will you point to some of the things that you think are important in relation to the cultural shift, which might build confidence for the future?

Mark Ruskell

That poll had a single question. The evidence that comes from areas that have implemented 20mph limits is more detailed. In particular, the Edinburgh pilot points to a range of reasons why 20mph is popular. Even with a modest reduction in average speed, people feel safer and they are more likely to ride a bike and let their child go out of the front door and cross the road. That is part of a growing shift. As more 20mph limits are rolled out, albeit in a piecemeal way across Scotland, there is a growing awareness of the importance of road safety. The balance is starting to tip.

Some of the evidence that has come out of Edinburgh—particularly the study that Ruth Jepson has been leading, which is now the biggest 20mph study in the UK—shows that opposition to 20mph limits is declining. The myths that they make roads slower, increase pollution and all of that are better understood, and people are focusing on the benefits to the feel and the liveability of their communities and the confidence that living in a community with a safer speed limit gives people.

As I said, we are at a tipping point. The evidence is getting stronger and stronger, but we still have a default 30mph limit from which we are continually trying to create exemptions.

The Convener

Peter Chapman has a question, and then we will move on to question 3, which will be asked by John Finnie.

It is important that we hear full answers, but I note that we have covered only two questions in half an hour, so we need to focus in. I am worried that, otherwise, we will not get through all the numerous questions that we have, which would—

Mark Ruskell

I will stay all day if you want. [Laughter.]

The Convener

I was not looking at you, Mark. I am just saying that there are a lot of questions and it is right for us to try to drill down into all of them.

Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

Mark, you have made some fairly bold statements that all councils want the bill to succeed and become law, but I am not sure that that is the case. We took evidence from Scottish Borders Council, for instance, and I got the feeling that it does not want that. It is quite happy with what it has. It sees that there are areas where a 20mph limit is correct, but there are also areas where it does not want to be forced to go down that route. It said that the number of accidents in some rural villages is so minuscule that there is no need to change the default speed limit from 30mph. What do you say to that?

10:30  



Mark Ruskell

I probably need to clarify what I said, Mr Chapman. I did not say that every single council is in favour; I said that the vast majority are in favour and have been supportive. We have had a lot of contact with them over the past two and a half years.

I understand where Scottish Borders Council is coming from. Like many local authorities, it will be under financial pressures and it needs to decide where it wants to put its resources. It has a focus on KSIs on major A and B roads in rural communities, and I understand why it might wish to have that. However, the report that we have just given to the committee shows that we also need to consider the serious injuries that happen on residential roads. The vast majority of people who live in rural Scotland, including me, live on streets that are restricted roads. They are street-lit roads where children live and play, and there are issues there. We need to find the correct balance.

I appreciate Scottish Borders Council’s view, which is that this is not a cost-saving exercise because it was not planning to introduce 20mph limits anyway. If we look at it that way, the proposal represents an additional cost, but we also need to consider the benefits and the savings to communities. I do not think that there is any difference between children who live in Newmachar, Alford, Alloa and the centre of Edinburgh. My kids live in rural Stirling in the same kind of environment that kids live in in the centre of Edinburgh, and it is important that they feel the benefits of a 20mph speed limit.

If it then becomes a funding issue and an issue of whether the Government should support rural councils that have identified challenges with the implementation of the 20mph speed limit, so be it. It makes no difference to the child, community or family who lives on a street whether they are in a rural village or the centre of Edinburgh. They face the same challenges with traffic. They still want to get out on their bikes and cycle or walk to school, and I do not see why they should not have safer streets so that they can do that. However, I appreciate that rural local authorities have challenges.

Peter Chapman

The point that Scottish Borders Council was making was that the number of such accidents on streets in built-up areas is minuscule, and it does not believe that the bill would make any significant difference at all. The figures that we have are virtually zero anyway.

Mark Ruskell

I will answer that point briefly, and this is also an answer to Mr Stevenson’s point. Table 5 in the report by Professor Adrian Davis gives a figure for those who are seriously injured on roads in built-up areas. It is 787 people every single year, at a cost of £167 million, which is a substantial cost. I am not for one minute saying that Scottish Borders Council does not take that into consideration. My point is that it is wrong for us not to consider the needs of people who live on streets and the dangers that they face.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Before asking questions about reductions in the numbers of casualties and collisions, I want to refer to the letter that we got yesterday from SCOTS, which was directed to the convener and circulated to the committee. The members of SCOTS are the senior practitioners in all the local authorities. The final paragraph of the letter says:

“In summary, the Society maintains its general support of the Restricted Roads (20mph speed limit) (Scotland) Bill and its intentions.”

Members will also be aware that 20’s Plenty for Us issued a press release yesterday, and on the tension between central decision making and local costs, it says:

“A National policy pays for itself in the first year for eight times less money than if councils implement 20mph individually at local level”.

That is a compelling piece of information.

Mark, you mentioned the World Health Organization and talked about the bill being a public health intervention, which is how I like to view it, rather than it being about administrative processes or signs. We heard from the cabinet secretary last week about the cost—I do not like it to be referred to in this way—of £2 million for a fatality.

Among the evidence on reductions in collisions and casualties, the Scottish Parliament information centre briefing paper talks about research by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, which we have taken evidence from. Will you comment on scenarios 1 and 2, which it alludes to?

Mark Ruskell

I am just looking for the paper.

John Finnie

It relates to reductions in casualties and fatalities, and the cost that is put to that.

The Convener

Before we go any further, I want to clarify something. The SCOTS letter that was referred to was sent to individual members rather than to the committee clerks. Have all members seen it? Did you see it, Jamie?

Jamie Greene

Maybe.

The Convener

It was sent to individuals; it was not circulated through the committee. I received a copy. If anyone on the committee has not received the letter, I will ensure that they get a copy afterwards.

John Finnie

I just assumed that we had it, so I printed it off.

The Convener

I am double checking, because the clerks looked at me blankly. The letter should have been sent to the committee, but it was not. If anybody has not got it—I note that Richard Lyle and Jamie Greene have not—I will make sure that they get a copy.

Mark, that probably gave you a brief interlude to find the information that you need.

Mark Ruskell

Yes. We make an estimate in the bill of what the benefits would be, which is focused on improvements to road safety. We have not tried to estimate in pounds and pence what the public health benefits would be in increased rates of walking and cycling, but we can assume that they would be substantial.

We wanted to get an independent view of what the road safety benefits would be and the casualty reductions that we could expect from a modest reduction in average speed. Two scenarios were associated with that, which correlate broadly with what we had worked up ourselves to put into the financial memorandum for the bill. In the Glasgow Centre for Population Health figures, the first scenario estimates 755 fewer casualties, five fewer fatalities and a cost saving of nearly £40 million every year. The second scenario estimates slightly less—531 fewer casualties, three fewer fatalities and a saving of £27 million every year. Those are substantial figures, but what they do not tell us is the human cost and the cost to a community of the loss of a life. I experienced that when I was a young child. Although I did not know the child who was involved very well, the impact on the school community and the family was huge, and it stays with me to this day.

We must also look at the impacts of not only fatalities but severe injuries—such as the lifetime care costs—and near misses. If somebody is involved in a near miss and comes very close to being seriously injured, that can affect their life chances and their choices in the future. I have met people who were nearly run over or knocked off their bike in a minor incident when they were younger, and they have never touched a bike again. The perception of how safe our communities are is also hugely important.

I will ask Mr Mylne to explain a little bit more about the estimates for the hard savings that we identified from the bill.

Mr Finnie, does that answer your question?

John Finnie

I have to be honest: I am uncomfortable with putting a sum beside a life. However, given that cost has featured so much in consideration of the bill, and given that we have heard about the cost benefits in that crude way, I would like to hear more about that, because it is important. I do not know what price you could put on the loss of a child’s life and the loss to the community, which you mentioned, but, if Mr Mylne has further information, it would be helpful to hear it.

Andrew Mylne (Scottish Parliament)

We have included some estimates of savings at the end of the financial memorandum. We break them down according to a number of different factors, and they use standard figures that are widely used across Government to calculate costs. For example, table 4 gives the value of accidents prevented according to likely costs to the police, and we have a separate table for the impact on the national health service.

Table 6 is, in some ways, the most significant. It shows the value of accidents prevented in terms of pain, grief and suffering, which I think is exactly what Mr Finnie has expressed some unease about. The point is that we have used standard figures that have been generated centrally within Government as a tool for policy analysis. There has to be some way of quantifying the cost of fatalities, and this is how it is done. It is a sort of actuarial calculation.

We could argue that, in a sense, it is not real money, but the approach is a way of quantifying costs in some meaningful way and we can use it for comparative analysis of the impact of fatalities and serious injuries. We have simply used standard figures. As I understand it, when the NHS assesses the value of new medicines or interventions that might save lives, it uses these figures to calculate the cost benefit.

We have come up with figures with lower and higher estimates, and they are very similar to the ones that Mr Ruskell quoted. There is a higher estimate of £36.1 million, which is very similar to the nearly £40 million that was quoted, and so on. I think that that demonstrates that there is a standard methodology that we can use to get meaningful numbers for the potential savings that we can gain from something that saves lives.

John Finnie

Do you have any evidence that a national 20mph speed limit on restricted roads would produce greater benefits in those areas than the current system does?

Mark Ruskell

The problem with the current system is that it is not delivering 20mph limits beyond zones outside schools and, for people who are lucky and live in Edinburgh, a substantial number of residential streets. It is not delivering those benefits universally, on a population-wide basis, in rural and urban areas. That is where the intervention that is proposed in the bill will start to deliver. It makes sense that, if we apply it throughout Scotland, we will get greater reductions in casualties and more benefits over time.

The Atkins review, which has been discussed in committee several times, also found that the bigger and broader a 20mph area is, the more effective it will be in reducing speed. It did particular work that looked at Brighton, where there had been a big roll-out, and it found that there was a greater reduction in speeds in the area because of the extent of the roll-out. There were also speed reductions on accompanying A and B roads outside the area. That demonstrates the benefits of applying the measure in a nationally consistent way—not just with piecemeal zones outside schools, but on an area-wide basis throughout the country.

John Finnie

The SPICe briefing, under the heading “Do 20mph speed limits improve road safety?”, alludes to what is referred to as

“A systematic review of evidence on 20mph zones, where physical traffic calming measures are present, and 20mph speed limit areas”.

That review, which was published in the Journal of Public Health, says that

“20 mph zones and limits are effective in reducing accidents and injuries, traffic speed and volume”—

we have heard about that—

“as well as improving perceptions of safety”.

Will you expand on that and say why it might be important?

Mark Ruskell

We make choices in our everyday lives about how we get to work and whether we allow our children to walk to school or whether they need to be driven to school, and a lot of that is down to perception. I do not go out of my house with a speed gun every morning and decide whether I am going to let my child walk to school, but I do have a sense of what my community feels like and whether it feels safe. It is a safer community as a result of the 20mph limit. Perception is important, and some of the research that has been done, particularly around the Edinburgh pilot and as part of the Atkins study, points to the fact that people feel safer when the limit in the streets where they live, work and play is 20mph. That has a positive impact on their choices.

10:45  



John Finnie

For the avoidance of doubt, the impact is not exclusively on young people. What about older people’s social mobility?

Mark Ruskell

I am not aware of a breakdown by particular types of people. The benefits are most keenly felt by those who are vulnerable. We have had support from disability organisations and those that represent people who are vulnerable, who are not just children. People who are walking and cycling are, by their very nature, vulnerable in a road environment where they mix with motorised vehicles.

There is global consensus: the WHO and the OECD say that 20mph limits should be the norm where vulnerable road users mix with vehicles. It is a safer speed limit that promotes active travel. Vulnerable road users feel more vulnerable as a result of higher-speed traffic.

The Convener

I am going to have to be strict on time if we are to get through all the questions.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

In one of your answers to John Finnie, you referred to

“people who are lucky and live in Edinburgh”.

Is it a question of luck that Edinburgh has a 20mph zone, or is it something to do with local democracy? I thought that the Greens were very much in favour of local democracy, so it surprises me that there is such an emphasis here on a national policy that would be imposed on local authorities. I know that you have already been asked about that, but could you explain a bit more? The current system is driven by local authorities and, under the proposal, local authorities would still have some leeway, but it would impose something new on them, would it not?

Mark Ruskell

It is important to get the balance right. We have a system of national speed limits for restricted roads, A roads, B roads and motorways. We do not encourage local authorities to set their own limits for the A roads and B roads, so that the limit in South Lanarkshire is different from that in Glasgow; we have national consistency, which is important. That is in statute, and the bill needs to go with the grain on that.

However, you make an important point about local discretion around the setting of 20mph limits and the integration of restricted roads with other roads within an urban area. That is very much about the locality, the local community and how it functions. It is about having that discussion with other road users such as the bus companies, hauliers and others. That is where the local discretion comes in. I am not proposing getting rid of nationally set speed limits; I am proposing that we use the current system in a more cost-effective way, so that it looks at exemptions, rather than that we create a new rule and consider exemption after exemption.

John Mason

I accept that whatever system we have will involve a mixture of national and local limits. Some members have already asked you how much interaction you have had with local authorities. There are three broad options: one is to continue with the present system; one is to follow your plan to have 20mph limits on restricted roads; and one is to make the 20mph limit more widespread. One of my concerns is that, in a village or a city like mine, there will be signs absolutely everywhere—every junction will have a sign saying 30mph or 20mph on it. Part of me would like to go further and say that the limit throughout the whole of Glasgow should be 20mph and that the council could make exceptions to that if it wanted. Can you explain why you think the 20mph limit on restricted roads is the right approach and whether, out of all those options, that is the preference of local authorities?

Mark Ruskell

The definition of a restricted road is a C road or an unclassified minor road that has streetlights. That accurately defines the streets on which the limit needs to be 20mph, because they are usually residential in character. On whether we want to include A or B roads, I am certainly not proposing a change in the default speed limit for B roads in Scotland to 20mph. That would not make sense at all.

John Mason

It would make sense in some areas.

Mark Ruskell

Indeed. It would make sense for a minority of roads, particularly in urban areas where the network of A and B roads is part of the community and is residential in character. During a previous session, the committee heard evidence from SCOTS that some local authorities have already reduced the speed limits on some A and B roads in urban areas. The speed limits for those roads have been reduced for good reason, and there would be a 20mph speed limit for such roads unless councils chose otherwise.

It is important that councils have discretion to make decisions. Going back to Mr Rumbles’s point, I have thought about Alford and similar communities in my region. Local authorities need to have discretion to decide whether they wish a through road to be incorporated into a wider 20mph network or whether they wish the speed limit for the road to remain 30mph or higher. That would require additional signage at entry and exit points on the through road. It would be a local decision that would need to be taken by councillors who had worked with communities. Such decisions cannot be taken centrally, here, nor should they be.

John Mason

You seem to be indicating that it is very clear where restricted roads are. One of my colleagues will ask further questions about the issue, but we have heard evidence that local authorities are not clear about that and cannot give us a figure for the miles of restricted roads in their areas. That takes me back to my first point: how can we decide on the best system if we are not clear about which roads are restricted?

Mark Ruskell

The letter from SCOTS, which I hope committee members will have received in the past day, shows quite clearly that a number of local authorities have done the work and have a clear understanding of where the restricted roads are. Other local authorities are on their way to doing the same. There are challenges, but the restricted roads category is pretty clear: it includes C roads and unclassified roads that have streetlights. The category does not include A and B roads unless they have been restricted under order. If such roads have been restricted under order, copies of the orders will be available. Although there might be a challenge for some local authorities, this is not rocket science; the body that represents the heads of transportation has given substantial reassurance that it is doable.

The Convener

My understanding, from the SCOTS letter, is that 50 per cent of councils have worked out where the restricted roads are and that the other councils are part of the way through the process or have not completed it at all. You say that local councils know where the restricted roads are. As I was during the previous evidence session, I am slightly confused about what is classified as a restricted road. Is the SCOTS letter—which was circulated yesterday and has now been emailed to members—wrong? Do more than 50 per cent of councils know where the restricted roads are, or is it just 50 per cent, as the letter says?

Mark Ruskell

The SCOTS letter stands on its own. The organisation has been doing more detailed work with local authorities, and it has gone beyond where we have got to with the policy and the financial memorandum. It is looking at the circumstances that individual local authorities are in. We do not have a complete national list of restricted roads in Scotland, with area totals, partly as a consequence of the blanket 30mph limit that we have currently.

The Convener

The SCOTS letter says:

“For the proposals in the Bill to become effective there is a requirement for enhanced and co-ordinated resource to be deployed to ... monitor and maintain the data required.”

That, in effect, means that we do not have the data. Is that correct?

Mark Ruskell

Councils have a range of data.

The Convener

I am asking a specific question: is what SCOTS says in its letter about councils not having all the data correct?

Mark Ruskell

The letter is correct, but—

The Convener

That is fine.

Mark Ruskell

However, the interpretation of the letter—

The Convener

Other members want to ask about the issue, so I will bring them in.

Stewart Stevenson

I want to home in on what is going on here. My understanding is that all councils know where their restricted roads are, because they have databases of them. Certainly, you can go on to the Aberdeenshire Council website and look up its restricted roads. However, I understand that the difficulty is that it is not known which of those restricted roads fall within the definition that relates to streetlights. I think that that is consistent with what SCOTS is saying, but I am uncertain. Is that the specific difficulty that is being referred to by councils? I hasten to add that I recognise that it is a difficulty.

Mark Ruskell

Yes. The definition of restricted roads in Scotland, which I gather is different from the definition in England, is that they are C or unclassified roads that have streetlights. From my days as a councillor, I know that every local authority has an asset register of where its streetlights are, because it maintains them; they are on maintenance schedules. Mr Stevenson is correct in saying that local authorities know where their restricted roads are. They also know where the roads that are not restricted—the A and B roads and the motorways—are. Perhaps the key issue is looking at where the variation has occurred over time and where orders have been applied for over time to bring in A and B roads as part of a wider restricted network.

Stewart Stevenson

To cut to the chase, while the councils have a database of all their C and unclassified roads, they do not know which of those roads in the database are restricted, because it is a different database from the streetlight database. Even though they have an asset register of the streetlights, is it correct to say that they do not necessarily know whether the streetlights are

“more than 185 metres apart”,

which is the information that they would need in order to identify the roads as restricted? Is that the area of difficulty that we are experiencing?

Mark Ruskell

That is not an issue that SCOTS has raised with me in the past two and a half years, but it is an interesting point and I imagine that SCOTS would be prepared to engage with Mr Stevenson and the committee on it, if you feel that it is substantial. However, it has not been raised with me, despite my extensive engagement with SCOTS and councils over the past two years.

John Finnie

I will comment briefly. It is a damning indictment of our local authorities if they do not know what they are responsible for. They are custodians of public property. Highland Council used to be able to tell you every lay-by or salt-deposit area that it owned. Similarly, I have had an asset breakdown from Argyll and Bute Council. You say that there has perhaps been some confusion over the definition and, once again, I am disappointed with the focus on road signs. There is no dubiety that the councils are required to maintain lighting in the areas that you are talking about, so, by default, they must know where those areas are.

Mark Ruskell

Yes, that was the point that I was trying to make.

Jamie Greene

I feel that we are not focusing just on road signs. It is an important issue, because if you read the overview of the bill, it says that the premise of the bill is

“to reduce the general speed limit on restricted roads to 20 miles per hour”.

That is the route that Mr Ruskell has chosen to take, rather than other approaches that might have been discussed. It is important that we get to the bottom of the issue. I will ask some simple questions about that to inform the committee. As the member in charge of the bill, does Mark Ruskell know how many restricted roads there are in Scotland?

Mark Ruskell

That information about a total length of restricted roads does not exist, because of the issues that we have just discussed. That is a question that I asked two and a half years ago, because I thought that it would be quite simple to say, “Here is the total road length of restricted roads in Scotland; multiply that by a certain number of signs and that gives you an understanding of the costs.” However, I was informed by roads officers and professionals in the area that that is not the way to work out how much it would cost. The way to do that is to look at where a 20mph limit has already been rolled out. We took a financial costing model based on Angus Council, where we looked at real settlements and what the signage requirements would be. That makes sense, because if you are in a large urban conurbation, there will be fewer entry and exit points out of a suburban area on to a through road than there will be in a smaller, rural village. We need to look at the roads and the types of settlements in Scotland, and build an understanding of what the costs would be in the implementation phase, rather than simply taking a figure and multiplying it by 20.

11:00  



Jamie Greene

I am sorry to interrupt you, but we will talk about costs later in the session, and I do not want to impose on other members who have questions on the subject. You have pre-empted an explanation of the reasons for my questions. I am asking for some simple data. This is the fifth evidence session on the bill, but no one has been able to answer basic questions on how many restricted roads there are in Scotland; the total mileage of those roads; the percentage of roads that are restricted; and—we heard about this in the previous evidence session—how many B roads are also designated as restricted roads. We heard specific evidence on West Lothian from one panellist, but I have no idea how that correlates with the number of B roads in other local authority areas.

Have you, in the past two and half years, been able to answer any of those fundamental questions in order to give us an idea of the scale of the bill’s effect?

Mark Ruskell

No, in terms of creating national totals for restricted roads. However, as I pointed out, the question needs to be answered at local level. We have worked with SCOTS to think through what an implementation plan would look like. That includes the phases of work that local authorities would need to undertake to establish the exact layout of restricted roads in their areas and which roads they would wish to retain as 30mph zones, and to develop a plan to put up signs and introduce traffic orders to maintain the final network. We have been informed by councils that implementation at that level would need to happen after the bill is enacted. There would be a decent timescale between the point at which the bill achieves royal assent, if it does so, and the beginning of the implementation period, which would allow councils to do that detailed work. Unfortunately, no magic figure exists.

Jamie Greene

That is unfortunate, because such a figure would help to put the bill’s premise in context. It is unfortunate that no one—neither the bill team nor the local authorities involved—has been able to answer those questions.

The letter that the committee received from SCOTS yesterday—I thank the clerks for forwarding it to us—is quite clear. It says:

“It may be accurate to state that ‘We do not know the number of restricted roads in Scotland’”.

It goes on to say that, for one third of roads, there is

“no or limited asset data to allow roads to be identified.”

At this stage of the bill, not only do nearly one third of local authorities still not know the answer to that question, they feel that they do not even have the data to enable them to answer it. It seems that there is still a problem with the availability of data. I am not saying whose fault that is or whose duty it is to collate the data; we can discuss that. However, it seems that there is a fundamental problem with regard to knowing and identifying which roads the bill will affect. That is a fundamental flaw.

Mark Ruskell

It is a challenge that has been well recognised since the inception of the bill. It is incorporated in the thinking around the timescale for implementation and the work that local authorities would need to do. We have had detailed conversations with those who would have to implement the bill about what would be required to provide certainty and to enable councils to work with stakeholders to identify which roads they wish to retain as 30mph zones. I am confident that the matter can be addressed.

Mike Rumbles

One of my major concerns about the bill arises from the evidence that we have received from rural councils in particular. They feel that the bill will have a disproportionate financial impact on rural councils and authorities, which calls into question whether the financial memorandum is fit for purpose. Even the City of Edinburgh Council, which has successfully done good work with 20mph zones, has told us that it will cost it nearly £1 million to adjust for the implementation of the bill by taking down signs and so on. In addition, there are issues for rural councils such as Highland Council, which told us in evidence that it has 700km of restricted roads.

Scottish Borders Council said to us, “Hang on—the accidents in the Borders have occurred because of vehicles reversing or going at very low speed.” From its perspective, the issue is not important enough for it to decide to put its financial resources into it. It will cost rural councils a hugely disproportionate amount of money to implement this. You have mentioned Alford, and I, too, have mentioned it; instead of having just one sign at the entrance to and exit from the village, it would have to put in more than 40, and the same situation would be repeated, at enormous cost, in every village in our rural authorities across the country. Do you have any response to that?

Mark Ruskell

Mr Rumbles has raised quite a few issues, and I thank him for giving some specific examples, because we sometimes need to drill down into such things if we are to truly understand an issue.

On the issue of costs, the bill is largely predicated on estimates provided by Angus Council, which, as we know, is fairly similar to much of rural Scotland, with a mixture of urban towns and conurbations, smaller villages and hamlets. I believe that the costings are accurate. Having discussed the matter with the council, I know that it has factored in the possible requirement for buffer zones and what I agree will be the inevitably higher cost of introducing signage in relatively small villages. The costs for Scotland, particularly for entry signage, are based on Angus’s estimates, so the costs have been weighted towards those that rural local authorities would have to shoulder.

There is a question as to whether certain local authorities will have disproportionately high costs. If the bill is passed, it will be important for the Scottish Government to find some way of equalising some of those costs. I appreciate that, if you are in Clackmannanshire, the smallest local authority in Scotland, and have already introduced a 20mph limit on every single road, the cost of integrating the signage for your current scheme with the national default scheme and taking down a few repeater signs will be less than the costs for, say, Highland Council, with its larger geographical area.

However, although it is important to recognise that, I point out that the majority of rural councils back this measure. Aberdeenshire Council was one of the few that were neutral, and Scottish Borders Council had concerns, but Highland Council, which you mentioned, Orkney Islands Council, Angus Council, Stirling Council and numerous community councils across Scotland back this approach. The equalisation of costs according to the need of rural local authorities is a valid issue, but I believe that the national estimates that we have provided are accurate. I have certainly seen no figures that show that we have underestimated costs.

What I am frustrated about at the moment is that I do not have from the Scottish Government a clearer understanding of how it might change the signage regulations. If it decided to change them to require repeater signs to remain up in 20mph zones or to reduce the requirement for 30mph repeaters, that would substantially reduce the costs of the bill even further. Unfortunately, I do not have that information for the committee at this point.

Mike Rumbles

I want to press you on your point about rural councils’ support for the bill. I signed your motion to allow the bill to be introduced, because I am very much in favour of 20mph limits, but the question that I have to ask myself as a committee member now that I have seen the bill, taken the evidence and interrogated witnesses is whether the bill is the best approach. I was particularly taken by Scottish Borders Council’s evidence that it does not think that a blanket 20mph approach will save lives. The council’s evidence to the committee was that the very few instances of accidents tend to involve reversing vehicles or vehicles at low speed, so why, at a time of financial constraints, should it spend a huge amount of money to solve a problem that does not exist, from its point of view? How recently did all those rural councils say that they support the bill? If I had been asked about support before I heard the evidence, I would have said yes. However, I am not so sure now.

Mark Ruskell

I point to not just my consultation at the beginning of the process to discuss the bill but the committee’s consultation and the responses from councils. You have taken evidence from a council that is in favour and one that is against and had discussions with Highland Council.

The majority of councils are in favour. I have run seminars in Parliament over the past two years for councils to discuss the issues with the implementation of 20mph restrictions. Rural councils such as East Lothian Council have said, “We are not doing 20mph restrictions any more, because every time we try to introduce a 20mph zone, we get 55 objections and 50 are from the same person. We will wait for your bill to be enacted.” Significant numbers of local authorities, of which a significant number are rural councils, are not rolling out 20mph restrictions now because they want a national default. The bill is what they are waiting for.

Earlier, I spoke about the views of Scottish Borders Council and I accept that this issue is not a priority for it. I point again to the report that has been furnished to the committee by Adrian Davis, which shows that the number of people who are seriously injured or killed in built-up areas in Scotland is significant. Those areas are in my rural community and your rural communities—they are not exclusively in the centre of Edinburgh and other cities. They are everywhere where children and vulnerable people live.

The Convener

Before we move on, I have a question that you have neatly led on to. At the weekend, I drove through Keith on the A96, which would not be covered by the 20mph speed limit. Boringly, I counted 60-plus streets off the main road, each of which would require signage each way. Then I looked to see whether the schools were on that road and I looked at the traffic, given the effect of the traffic lights. My truthful view was that the new signage and the change in the law would not make much difference, but it would be at a vast cost. Is that situation reflected in many rural areas, or is Keith exceptional?

Keith is exceptional, by the way. [Laughter.]

Mark Ruskell

I am sure that it is. I am a bit parochial on this issue, because I spend a lot of time driving around Fife. I have seen the way in which Fife Council has implemented 20mph limits. In some communities, such as Burntisland and Aberdour, the council has decided to have 20mph limits on the through arterial roads as well, because that makes sense for those communities, given considerations such as how people cross the street, where they access services and shops, how many tourists there are and where the railway station and the police station are. Those decisions are based on the needs of that locality. It may be different for a rural community that has a less residential character and is more arterial in nature. Those decisions should be made locally.

The Convener

I will stop you there, because that leads on neatly to Colin Smyth’s question.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

Thank you, convener. When the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity gave evidence to the committee, he seemed to suggest that he supported the concept of 20mph restrictions but his view was that this was not the bill through which to deliver it—nor was it the best method to achieve it. How do you respond to that view? What alternatives to this proposal have you looked at to deliver 20mph restrictions?

Mark Ruskell

I am not clear what the alternatives might be. The committee has discussed streamlining the traffic regulation order process, for example, but there is nothing inherently wrong with that process, which has been designed to create exceptions to a rule. Simply streamlining a process to enable more and more exemptions from a rule does not make sense. Why not just change the rule and continue to apply the regulation order process on the streets where councils want to retain 30mph limits?

I do not see what the alternatives might be. Some local authorities are stopping the roll-out of 20mph limits because they are waiting for the bill to be enacted; they support what I am attempting to do. I am not clear that there is an alternative. The system that we have at the moment is very painful and slow for those local authorities that want to create a new default limit of 20mph in their residential areas, and for other local authorities it is not delivering the protection that would be provided by having a 20mph limit on restricted roads.

11:15  



Colin Smyth

Is it the case that at no time during your discussions with the Government on the issue has it put forward an alternative proposal?

Mark Ruskell

I have not had that feedback. We had detailed discussions with the previous transport minister, Humza Yousaf, which were very constructive, and we have been working with Transport Scotland officials, who gave evidence last week, over a long period of time. The direction of travel has been to consider the proposal that is in the bill. At no point has it been put to me that there is an alternative waiting to be brought in, by streamlining the TRO process, removing the requirement for repeater signs or anything else. The view that I am getting from local authorities is that although streamlining the TRO process might have some benefit, it will not fundamentally change their present policies.

Colin Smyth

So no organisation that you have spoken to has said that streamlining the TRO process would deliver 20mph limits more quickly than they are being delivered at the moment.

Mark Ruskell

No. Almost two years ago, I asked whether there was a simple way to do what I was proposing—I asked whether I should lobby the Scottish Government for more funding or attempt to streamline the TRO process—but I was consistently told that a national default made sense. That is why I am here today, at the end of a very long journey, at no point on which have I been told about an alternative that would achieve the objective that the bill seeks to achieve, which is to ensure that there is a safer speed limit on the streets where people live, work and play.

Colin Smyth

I want to ask about a side issue. How would you expect a local authority to deal with the process of reimposing a 30mph speed limit on a restricted road, particularly where residents were in favour of a 20mph limit and where, as a result of your bill, it would be 20mph by default?

Mark Ruskell

I come back to the importance of the implementation phase. We have discussed with councils and SCOTS how that would work. We would not want to find ourselves in a situation in which a 20mph default limit was brought in for restricted roads and, six months or a year later, a debate took place about whether to keep it at 20mph or to take it back up to 30mph. The process needs to be as seamless as possible, which means that we must give local authorities a substantial amount of time to bottom out the exact nature of their restricted roads; to consult communities and stakeholders, including the bus companies, which have a legal obligation to stick to timetables, on which roads the speed limit should continue to be 30mph; and to embark on a phased roll-out of the signage.

During the implementation phase, it will be important to have up-front discussions with communities about where it is appropriate to retain the 30mph limit. There will be cases in which we will need to retain the 30mph limit, for very good reasons—many of our roads are arterial in nature. That needs to happen ahead of the date of implementation of the bill.

The Convener

Peter Chapman will ask the next question.

Peter Chapman

Robust evidence has been presented that the 20mph limits that are in place at the moment are regularly flouted. Average speeds have dropped by only 1mph or 1.5mph because often it is so busy that the traffic is capable of travelling at only 24mph.

What we are seeing is that the 20mph limits that exist are regularly flouted. We heard from Police Scotland that it would not put in place extra resources to enforce the 20mph limit, because it does not have any. If people get used to the fact that they can flout the 20mph limit on a regular basis—and they do—will the effect on the general perception be that 60mph and 70mph speed limits can be flouted, too? Will people think that, because the limit is regularly flouted in Edinburgh, it can be flouted elsewhere?

The Convener

The evidence that the police gave to the committee was subsequently corrected. They made it clear that they will enforce the 20mph limit in Edinburgh; they have the capability to do so if someone goes over that limit. I do not want anyone to feel that what they heard in the committee evidence session gives them the ability to break the law. The police made it clear that they will enforce the limit. What they said was that they would choose where to enforce it, based on accident black spots. I wanted to clarify that before Mark Ruskell answers the question.

Mark Ruskell

Thank you for that. The current situation on 30mph roads is that more than half the people who travel on them break the speed limit—they go faster than 30mph. We have a compliance issue with 30mph roads. The number of people doing between 20mph and 24mph on a 20mph limit road is broadly similar, in terms of compliance, to the number breaking the limit on a 30mph road. I do not think that we are seeing a dramatically different issue in respect of compliance. The issue for the police is that they have limited resources: they do not have officers to stand on every single street corner on 30mph roads with speed cameras to enforce the limit. That is why we need an approach involving education and amplifying of enforcement activity, as the convener just said, so that the perception that people might be caught speeding and that speeding is socially unacceptable becomes more the norm, and we transform social attitudes on that over time.

The important point in the report that we have just circulated to the committee is that the police recognise that they would need to put in place some up-front enforcement if the bill were to become law. Stewart Carle commented on that in the report. The police recognise that they have a role to play—partly in education and partly in targeting their enforcement activity on roads where speeding is particularly high.

Mike Rumbles

I want to challenge Mark Ruskell’s response, because it is contrary to the information that we have in the SPICe briefing about enforcement. It is quite clear from the SPICe briefing—I do not have it in front of me, but I remember the evidence that was used—that in 30mph zones most motorists, and the average speed of motorists, are within the law. In 20mph zones—certainly in Edinburgh—most people drive at, and the average speed is, more than 20mph. I am not saying whether that is right or wrong; I just want Mark Ruskell to address the facts. The facts are that within 30mph zones, most people are law abiding, but in 20mph zones, most people are not. Do you accept that?

Mark Ruskell

I return to the figure that most people driving on a 30mph road are breaking the law—they drive at more than 30mph. Perhaps even more important than that is that they drive at speeds such that if they hit a pedestrian that person would be seven times less likely to survive.

Mike Rumbles

That is not the evidence about Edinburgh that the committee received in the SPICe briefing, which I think John Finnie might have in front of him.

Mark Ruskell

As for the point that we would, in effect, criminalise people by dropping the speed limit, the police apply a rule of thumb to detection and prosecution of people for speeding. The rule of thumb is that an acceptable variance from the speed limit is 10 per cent of the limit plus 2mph. The numbers of people who drive on a 20mph road at between 20mph and 24mph show that compliance is broadly the same as it is with the 30mph limit, so I do not get the sense that we would criminalise a large number of people by dropping the speed limit. Over time, as people come to understand the implications of driving at a higher speed and being caught doing so, speeds would drop further.

Page 2 of one of the committee’s SPICe briefings from a previous week includes a graph, which is difficult to describe, that is based on Department for Transport statistics. It shows that the range of vehicle speeds—from those who break the speed limit by travelling at 39mph down to those who travel at under 20mph—shifts towards 20mph on 20mph limit roads.

Mike Rumbles

Can we talk about the information that I referred to? I have it in front of me now, as John Finnie has kindly produced it. Page 6 of the SPICe briefing on the bill says, of Edinburgh:

“The average speed of vehicles on streets, provided with a 20mph speed limit, has dropped by an average of 1.9mph from 22.8mph to 20.9mph.”

When the speed limit was 30mph, the average speed was 22.8mph, so most people were obeying the law. Where the limit has been dropped to 20mph, the average speed is still more than 20mph. The Edinburgh statistics are clear in the SPICe briefing. Surely we should accept what the briefing has established.

Mark Ruskell

That is an average speed reduction, and the average is made up of a number of people driving at different speeds—some are going fast and some are going more slowly than the average. That is divided by the number of drivers to end up with an average speed reduction. That does not tell us that everybody is suddenly driving 1.9mph slower. What it shows, as some studies in Edinburgh have shown, is that the reduction in speed on higher-speed roads is greater than that on lower-speed roads. That stands to reason; implementing a 20mph limit on a road where it is difficult to drive at 20mph because it is incredibly narrow and is residential would mean a low reduction in speed, whereas putting a 20mph limit on a faster road would reduce speed more.

The reference is to an average and not to a mean; I am looking at Stewart Stevenson.

The Convener

I am trying to get you to look at me. I give you huge credit for having attended every evidence session on the bill; you will have heard me say that, when I waggle my pen, that means that the witness is probably getting to the end of their answer. I know that Malachy Clarke would like to come in.

Malachy Clarke

The second SPICe briefing that was presented to the committee said that

“52% of drivers on a road with a 30mph speed limit exceed those speeds”,

so most drivers travel at above 30mph. However, the point is that a speed of 20.9mph on a 20mph road would not break the law. The police would not stop anyone who was driving at 20.9mph to give them a ticket, and the police have said as much.

The Convener

The point is that it is easy to buy into reducing speed limits to 20mph in Edinburgh if people never do 30mph because of traffic conditions, but that might be a different argument.

Stewart Stevenson

I have one brief question and one slightly less brief question. Is Mark Ruskell aware that the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, which cover calibration of speedometers in vehicles, provide that speedometers have to be accurate only to plus or minus 10 per cent? That is why the 10 per cent approach applies. Legally, a person can sit in their car and read 30mph on their speedometer when their actual speed is 33mph. Therefore, if they were to be stopped when going at 33mph and taken to court, they would have a legal defence that their speedometer said 30mph. Is that your understanding? I see nodding heads, so I do not think that I need a further response.

The Convener

Can you move on to your next question?

11:30  



Stewart Stevenson

Therefore, 20.1mph is actually within the 20mph limit.

I want to pick up on something in the report that the transport research institute has helpfully provided, although we have covered much of this already. Paragraph 3 on page 3 states:

“There was a general agreement that greater levels of road traffic policing results in lower numbers of collisions and injuries and traffic violations.”

We have a conflict here, given that the report points out at the bottom of page 4 that, in essence, the police are not particularly enforcing the issue in urban areas. They enforce in rural areas, where speeds are higher. However, the majority of serious casualties occur on roads in built-up urban areas. Have the police adequately addressed that in the observations that they have provided to the committee so far? I note that the police intend to have a special enforcement period of at least six months after implementation of the bill.

Mark Ruskell

We have had detailed engagement with Police Scotland. We recognise that it is in a difficult position, because it has resource constraints and needs to prioritise in order to deliver the most public benefit from its policing. That is partly why I commissioned the work from Professor Adrian Davis and the Scottish institute for policing research—I wanted to help the police to drill down into the data to consider how they would react to a national default, and where they might choose to prioritise their resources. It is welcome that the police have acknowledged that there would be a need for strong police involvement in the initial six months. However, we need further discussion with the police on numbers of seriously injured people in built-up areas. We need to consider whether we have the balance right.

Peter Chapman

As I said, the traffic often travels at around 20mph—not because that is the limit, but because traffic conditions are such that it is physically impossible to go any faster than that at peak times. Outwith peak times, when traffic levels are a lot lower, the temptation for many drivers will be to drive above the 20mph limit, because they can do so at those times. I accept that there is a duty on the police to enforce a 20mph limit, but I also accept the point that, as we heard, there is no more resource to do that. The end result will be that many more drivers will break the law—end of story. I ask you to accept that that is the reality.

Mark Ruskell

I will ask Andrew Mylne to talk about where we think there might be an increase in fines. The evidence is clear, from the Atkins study and other studies, that a 20mph limit does not undermine other speed limits. In fact, the evidence shows that speeds reduce on surrounding 40mph and 60mph roads: overall speeds are reduced.

There will be variance throughout the day, but you have heard from Police Scotland that it does not say to people that it is okay to speed up at 3 o’clock in the morning and that they can rumble down the Royal Mile at 40mph if they want. At any time of day, there are implications of speeding. Part of the issue is about education. When people are driving fast through the centre of Edinburgh at 3 in the morning, there might be fewer pedestrians and less traffic on the road, but there might also be people who are particularly vulnerable and who could step out in front of a taxi or other vehicle. We need a process of engaging with drivers so that they understand the message on the impact of speeding.

People need to understand the implications not just of getting caught but of being in an accident, which could have an extremely serious impact on their career, and on the wider community and all the individuals involved—the person who is in the accident and the driver. Perhaps Andrew Mylne could explain about the fines income.

Andrew Mylne

Yes—

The Convener

You should look to your researcher, Malachy Clarke, on your left as well, because he might want to add to what you are saying.

Andrew Mylne

When we were doing the financial memorandum, we took into account levels of compliance with speed limits. Table 1 on page 4 of the financial memorandum gives current statistics for levels of compliance with different speed limits, which back up Mark Ruskell’s earlier point. There might be greater non-compliance with the 20mph limit, but it is not as great as you might think. We used the statistics as a basis to work out what additional costs might arise if there was a need for a greater number of prosecutions, penalties and so forth. That is all carefully costed.

What we have set out in the financial memorandum is based on a certain number of assumptions and comes up with certain numbers, but if the bill is successfully implemented, with an effective public information campaign that succeeds in changing the culture—as is the intention—levels of non-compliance might not go up at all, so it is possible that some costs will be avoided. However, we have costed quite carefully on the basis of there being some increase in speeding.

The Convener

That leads neatly on to Jamie Greene’s question.

Jamie Greene

Mark Ruskell probably shares a lot of the frustration around the narrative, as we focus on numbers, percentages and costs. I would like to talk about the costs because they are important, but before I do so, I will share a short anecdote.

I promote active travel, as Mark Ruskell will be aware. However, I chose to drive to work this morning from my home in Edinburgh at 20mph or less for the entire journey—as I always do, of course.

Mike Rumbles

Well done! [Laughter.]

Jamie Greene

Thank you. It is important to put the bill in the context of what motorists experience in the real world, because this is about what happens out there to driver behaviour, and about pedestrians’ and cyclists’ perceptions of road safety. This really gets to the crux of the bill. During my journey to work, two cars overtook me because, in the eyes of the drivers, I was driving too slowly. One pulled out in front of a bus. A cyclist overtook me because they thought I was going too slowly down a hill and another driver sat so close to my rear bumper that I could see the whites of his eyes.

Do you understand people’s genuine concerns that not everyone will drive at 20mph and that when drivers try to do so, it can be incredibly difficult?

Mark Ruskell

The Edinburgh experience is interesting. We all have our experiences of driving, cycling and walking in Edinburgh. I would point to the evidence that Ruth Jepson presented to the committee. She is doing the largest study anywhere in the UK of 20mph roll-out, and it has shown that the level of public objection to the 20mph limit in Edinburgh has gone down over the past year.

I do not deny that there are those who might feel frustrated about driving at 20mph. There is a question about the appropriate selection and retention of 30mph limits on arterial roads. It is certainly important to retain the 30mph limit on arterial roads because we need that higher speed limit for traffic flow, and there might be a case for the limit to be 30mph on roads that are largely non-residential. However, that is a local decision for councils to make and there will be discussion around whether councils have made the right decision—I know that there is a discussion in Edinburgh about whether all the roads need to be 20mph or whether some can be 30mph or whatever.

There needs to be a judgment about a road’s function. Is it largely residential? Does it have an arterial function and should it therefore be retained as 30mph? Let us be clear—these are the minority of roads. I am not sure about your journey this morning but if you were driving through a residential housing estate in a suburb of Edinburgh, I presume that people were not tailgating you there. They were perhaps more concerned if you were on an arterial road. In terms of relieving driver frustration, it is about choosing the appropriate roads to retain as 30mph.

I point again to the evidence that the committee had from the Road Haulage Association, which said that it does not object to the bill. The professional HGV drivers do not object to the bill; they want to see appropriate retention of a 30mph arterial network, and I absolutely share that view. I agree with the Road Haulage Association that we need to retain roads at 30mph, but let us be clear that that applies to a minority of roads within an urban environment.

Jamie Greene

Thank you for that helpful response. Moving on to the cost—an issue that has come up time after time in evidence sessions, including this morning—what is your understanding of the total potential cost of implementing the bill? The relevant costs are to central Government or local authorities and probably exclude any costs associated with police enforcement.

Mark Ruskell

The financial memorandum, which we worked on with Andrew Mylne and Malachy Clarke in conjunction with SCOTS, which represents the people who will be implementing the bill, estimates the figure at between £21 million and £22 million over two years. As I indicated earlier, that modelling is based on figures that were provided by Angus Council and City of Edinburgh Council from their existing 20mph roll-outs. Mr Mylne can expand on how that financial modelling has been arrived at, if that would be useful.

Jamie Greene

We could spend a lot of time getting into the algorithms behind it, but you said that the top-line figure is £21 million to £22 million. Is that just for local authorities or does it include the costs of the Crown Office, the Scottish Government and the courts? I am looking at the table in the briefing paper, which says that the annual costs in the first two years are £10.2 million to £11.9 million, and trying to correlate those numbers. How does that match with your £21 million?

Mark Ruskell

That £21 million is from the financial memorandum. I cannot see the table that you have in front of you, but it is probably from the financial memorandum. There should be a table that outlines costs for the Scottish Government, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, local authorities and Police Scotland. If that is what you are looking at, it is the same as what I am looking at.

The Convener

I am slightly confused, because Mark Ruskell is quoting a figure of £21 million and the table says that costs in the first two years are £10.2 million to £11.9 million. Can you clarify which it is?

Stewart Stevenson

The table shows annual costs.

Mark Ruskell

Over two years.

The Convener

Okay. I have got that. Thank you for explaining that to me.

Jamie Greene

If we look at the comments that we received from SCOTS, which participated in the costings, the author of some of the projections thought that £19 million was

“at the low end and £33 million at the upper end”—[Official Report, Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, 6 March 2019; c 10.]

Taking the experience of Edinburgh as an example, we put in some freedom of information requests to City of Edinburgh Council and learned that the cost of Edinburgh’s 20mph project was nearly £3 million—£2.96 million. I am trying to put that into context. That was just for one local authority. How do you square those substantial costs for one local authority with a national roll-out costing just £22 million?

Mark Ruskell

It is because Edinburgh was doing it under the current system, which, as you will have heard the council say in evidence, was at least double the cost—that is in the Official Report. The cost of doing it under the current system is a lot higher. Mr Mylne will explain further.

Andrew Mylne

In the financial memorandum, we have tried to explain the methodology as carefully as we can. Some of the calculations are not straightforward. As Mr Ruskell said, we have data from particular authorities such as Angus Council and the City of Edinburgh Council, and we have tried to extrapolate from those to a national level. That is not an easy exercise.

We cannot just multiply by 32, which is the number of local authorities, from the basis of one. The local authority that we start from will not be representative, because of either its geography or the proportion of roads in built-up areas—Edinburgh has a very high proportion of roads in built-up areas compared with other councils, for example—and because some of the figures are derived from the cost of implementing widespread 20mph zones under the current regime, which is a relatively cumbersome and costly process. Many authorities that have not yet taken significant steps towards widespread 20mph restrictions would go through a different process once the bill became law, and the costs would, therefore, be different.

11:45  



The extrapolation is complex, and all I can say is that we have tried in the financial memorandum to explain as carefully, openly and transparently as we can the methodology that we have used. As with any financial memorandum, it is a matter of informed guesswork; it is not a scientific process. We cannot claim that the numbers at the end of the document are the last word. There will be different ways to arrive at numbers and different people will arrive in good faith at slightly different numbers.

Where we have made assumptions, we have explained what they are, and we have said where there are gaps because we simply could not attach numbers to a particular element. On that basis, I stand by the figures that we have produced as a good, honest estimate of the realistic costs of the bill. Others might arrive at different figures, but it is striking that the experts—those in SCOTS—have come up with broadly comparable figures.

Mark Ruskell

I should say that the memorandum is based on current regulations for signage. It assumes that repeaters may be needed on a road that retained 30mph, so we have costed in £8 million for repeaters. If signage guidance were to change, that sum might not be required. We have assumed that existing 20mph repeaters would need to be removed because 20mph would no longer be an exception; it would be the default. Therefore, repeater signs would not be needed.

If Government were to change the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002, those costs could be substantially reduced. However, we have based the memorandum not on that assumption but on the worst-case scenario at this point. Also, as I mentioned earlier, we have based it on a rural model, which assumes a greater proportion of exit and entry signs because those communities are smaller.

Our costings are accurate. Last night, I spoke to SCOTS again and it is content that what we have is robust.

Jamie Greene

The other thing that was said by SCOTS in its letter that was submitted yesterday was that “adequate funding” should be provided to local authorities to do this. The big question is, where will that money come from? Nothing in the financial memorandum states that central Government will give local authorities any additional funding to implement the change. Whether we agree with the financial memorandum’s final numbers is a matter for debate, but there will inevitably be a cost of at least £20 million. My understanding is that the brunt of that will be borne by local authorities. We have had representation from local authorities that are concerned about those costs. Where do you think that the money should come from? Who should pay for the implementation of what is, in effect, a central Government policy?

Mark Ruskell

This bill is a change in a national default limit for restricted roads, so I believe that national Government should pay for the bulk of the costs. Local authorities have tried to do this under existing budgets over many years. Clackmannanshire Council tried to ration its road safety budget to introduce exemption after exemption, and other councils have done the same. If this was a national roll-out, there would clearly be a role for the Scottish Government. For procurement of signage, for example, there could be opportunities for arm’s-length companies that local authorities run, such as Tayside Contracts, to be engaged in sign manufacture. SCOTS has said in our discussions that an element of national procurement would be the most cost-effective way to deliver this.

The Convener

Before we leave the issue of costs, we heard from the cabinet secretary that the marketing figure in the memorandum might be very low. He suggested that, if this change were to be rolled out, the figure would have to be substantially higher. Do you have a comment on that?

Mark Ruskell

The figure in the financial memorandum is based on the cost of a typical national campaign. The Scottish Government already has a budget for those campaigns and we have assumed an uplift of around £500,000 to provide a particular focus on 20mph in national education. It would be a choice for Government whether it wished to go further, particularly if it wished to introduce a multiannual campaign that could last for longer than two years. It has an existing budget, and the question is whether there is a case to go beyond that. The decision about whether the budget needed to be substantially increased over time would be based on a reflection on the benefit over the first year of a national campaign.

The bill is predicated on a modest reduction of average speed. Measures to achieve that are currently dealt with by local authorities that have hardly any budget to do that sort of work. Clackmannanshire Council did very little educational work with the police when it introduced the 20mph limit. We can assume that anything that the Government would do beyond that would drive that culture change further, but that would be a choice for the Government.

The Convener

I do not want to misquote Michael Matheson, but I think that he suggested that national marketing campaigns would cost significantly more than that. He would have better experience of that than me.

Mike Rumbles

I want to pick up on what Mark Ruskell has just said: that he thinks that, because the bill represents a national initiative, it should be the national Government—the Scottish Government—that foots the bill, not our local authorities. That is what you have just said, Mark.

Mark Ruskell

That is my personal view.

Mike Rumbles

Well, why did you specify up to £20 million from local authorities in the financial memorandum but only £450,000 from the Scottish Government? That does not reflect what you have just said.

Mark Ruskell

Local authorities would have to pay in the first instance but, as we know, through Government investment in road safety and active travel, Scottish Government budget lines can appear and can support local authorities to do work that the national Government feels is important. There is a partnership there with local authorities.

Mike Rumbles

Did you not think it was important, when presenting a member’s bill, to be absolutely clear about that? You are the member in charge of the bill, and you have just said to us in verbal evidence that you feel that the measures should be funded on a national basis. Yet, in the evidence that you have presented to us in written form—in the financial memorandum—you have said the opposite: you have said that £20 million should come from local authorities, and only £450,000 should come from the Government. Why is that?

Mark Ruskell

The financial memorandum says that local authorities would need to spend that money in order to bring about a national default 20mph limit. That is correct. Where do local authorities get their money from? From council tax, Scottish Government core grants, and so on. I will not deny that there is a question there. There are huge savings from the proposals, some of which would come back to local authorities. There is an up-front cost, and local authorities would bear that cost, but how it is funded is a question also for the Scottish Government.

The Convener

The last question is from Richard Lyle. Hopefully we will have a brief question and a brief answer.

Richard Lyle

When drink-driving legislation came in, people said that it would not work. When the smoking ban came in, people said that it would not work. Can you set out what you consider to be the likely benefit of your proposals? How does your bill compare with the other interventions that I have just mentioned?

Mark Ruskell

I think that it is very similar. It is a public health intervention. You heard the evidence from Professor Adrian Davis, who is an expert in public health, and you have heard evidence from Dr Ruth Jepson. The bill represents a cost-effective public health intervention, considering the ratio of cost to benefits. It could indeed cost £20 million to put the signs up and get the measures in place, but there could potentially be £35 million of savings year on year.

Richard Lyle

What cost is a life? It is a tremendous cost to anyone.

Mark Ruskell

It is funny—that was a point that my son raised the other week.

Richard Lyle

How would I feel if I knocked down a toddler? How would people feel if their loved one was killed? If the bill helps to save one life, it is worth all those millions of pounds as far as I am concerned.

Mark Ruskell

Yes. My son asked me how I was getting on with the 20mph bill, and I said that I had a big committee session this week, at which there would obviously be a lot of debate about costs. He said, “You can’t spend money to bring back somebody from the dead.”

Richard Lyle

Exactly. I wish you well, Mark.

The Convener

That is probably a very good point on which to leave the discussion.

Thank you, Mr Ruskell, for the evidence that you have given this morning. You have presented your case, and I thank you for that. I thank Malachy Clarke—I think you had the chance to come in. Andrew Mylne had a few chances, and Claudia Bennett had a chance to come in, too. Thank you very much for giving evidence this morning.

11:54 Meeting continued in private until 12:30.  



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6 February 2019

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20 February 2019

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6 March 2019

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20 March 2019

Committee Findings

Delegated Powers committee's Stage 1 report

What is secondary legislation?

Secondary legislation is sometimes called 'subordinate' or 'delegated' legislation. It can be used to:

  • bring a section or sections of a law that’s already been passed, into force
  • give details of how a law will be applied
  • make changes to the law without a new Act having to be passed

An Act is a Bill that’s been approved by Parliament and given Royal Assent (formally approved).

Debate on the Bill

A debate for MSPs to discuss what the Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill aims to do and how it'll do it.

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Stage 1 debate transcript

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame)

The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-17660, in the name of Mark Ruskell, on the Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill.

15:01  



Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

Since devolution, there have been choices for the Parliament to make, in order to break from the status quo, be bold and lead the change. From the smoking ban to the minimum pricing of alcohol, the Parliament has led the way in making small changes that will have a big impact on the health of our nation for generations to come.

Today, I am asking Parliament to take another step forward to make our streets and communities permanently safer. Speed limits of 20mph make a big contribution to the safety of everyone on the streets on which we live, especially to the safety of children. They reduce speeds, prevent deaths and injuries and encourage choices to walk and cycle, while public support for them continues to grow year on year. Yet 20mph speed limits remain exceptions to a blanket 30mph rule that was set nearly 90 years ago; they are expensive to introduce and inconsistently applied. It a postcode lottery as to whether a community is protected and our most deprived communities are often left behind.

I am asking Parliament to consider the fundamental question: what should be the default speed limit on the streets on which we live? If the answer to that question is 20mph, the bill is the only credible approach that delivers that goal in a way that is nationally consistent, timely and cost effective.

Over the past three years, I have been delighted to work with a wide range of organisations, including councils, public health bodies, road safety organisations and schools, and many thousands of individuals who back the bill. Public support has been strong—countless studies have shown that the majority of the public supports 20mph limits and that the support goes up when the limits are introduced.

More than 1,900 people responded to the initial consultation on the bill and well over 6,500 people responded to the consultation that the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee ran, which showed 62 per cent support. I particularly thank Rod King and the team at twenty’s plenty for providing support through their extensive networks across the United Kingdom in building the case for the bill.

Last year, I was delighted to be invited to address meetings in Wales, including in the Senedd, where there is now a strong cross-party consensus, with the First Minister recently announcing that Wales will be switching to a 20mph default national limit. The Welsh proposal to allow councils to retain 30mph limits on a minority of roads of their choosing exactly mirrors my bill, and will make Wales the first 20mph nation in the UK.

I also thank councils for their active support: Orkney Islands Council, Shetland Islands Council, Glasgow City Council, the City of Edinburgh Council, Angus Council, East Renfrewshire Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Midlothian Council, Renfrewshire Council, Stirling Council, East Dunbartonshire Council, Highland Council, Aberdeen City Council and South Lanarkshire Council have all been strong supporters.

Glasgow City Council recently passed a motion in support of the bill, while the City of Edinburgh Council has said that, had the bill been in place at the time, it would have halved the cost of its 20mph roll-out. Councils that want to make the streets where we live safer want a default 20mph limit. Only a small minority of councils, most notably Scottish Borders Council, are out of step in wanting to choose whether to implement 20mph limits. Why should a child who is growing up on a street in Galashiels deserve any less protection than a child who lives on a street in Edinburgh?

Throughout the development of the bill, my team has also worked closely with the members of the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland, which is the representative body of all roads authorities. They are the people who will be directly responsible for implementing the bill. I thank them for their input into the costings and their continued support, which was reaffirmed last night in their formal response to the committee’s report.

Many councils now await the introduction of this bill to make the full roll-out of the 20mph limit cheaper and easier across their communities. On the public health case, I have been delighted to work with organisations including the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, the Faculty of Public Health, the British Heart Foundation, the British Lung Foundation and NHS Scotland; they all back the bill. The Glasgow Centre for Population Health was instrumental in helping us to understand the impact that the bill would have on protecting and saving lives. Its study showed that, even with a modest reduction in average speeds, every year, the bill would save five lives, 750 casualties and £39 million. Real people’s lives will be saved and transformed and real savings will keep coming every year for decades to come—all for the cost of simply changing the road signs.

Liam Kerr (North East Scotland) (Con)

Will the member take an intervention?

Mark Ruskell

Yes, if I can get the time back.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Yes, you can. There is time in hand in this debate. I can be flexible, which is good for everybody.

Liam Kerr

Does the member not concede that that only happens if the impact of the bill is, as he wishes, to reduce the speed limit in practice?

Mark Ruskell

That is a basic question and I point the member to the extensive policy memorandum, which details all the studies that show the kind of speed reduction that we would get if we implemented the 20mph limit across the nation. The bill is predicated on the existing roll-out of the 20mph limit in cities around the UK. We are not starting with some kind of rocket science. We already know the impact of 20mph zones. We know what the impact will be if we go for a national default.

We also know the devastating impact that a fatality can bring to families and communities. Even minor incidents can destroy a person’s confidence, leaving them unable to cycle or fearful of traffic for the rest of their lives. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said that the bill would

“have an immediate beneficial impact on”

the health of children and young people, creating

“safer places to walk, cycle and play, reducing fatal and non-fatal injuries”.

I have also been pleased to work with a huge range of organisations that know that the bill will transform the liveability of our communities. Sustrans, Living Streets Scotland, Cycling UK, British Cycling, Scottish Cycling, Transform Scotland, pedal on Parliament, Ramblers Scotland, Friends of the Earth, Paths for All, Brake, Spokes, GoBike, Guide Dogs Scotland and dozens of community councils and parent councils all back the bill.

A joint letter from more than 20 national bodies and the newly appointed active nation commissioner, Lee Craigie, was clear and unequivocal in its support, saying that

“A Scotland-wide reduction in speed limits will save lives every year, not only through reduced casualties but, as more people choose active forms of travel and the air quality in our communities improves. We cannot wait for local authorities to implement this in a few limited areas, as and when they have the resources. We cannot wait for more studies.”

The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee heard many of those arguments. They were highlighted in its report, which concluded that sign-only 20mph limits deliver “important increases” in walking and cycling and agreed that

“20mph zones can contribute to social inclusion, the quality of life and the ‘liveability’ of neighbourhoods and streets.”

The report went on to say that

“the Committee supports the deployment of 20mph zones in Scotland, especially where pedestrians are present, and acknowledges the road safety benefits that this would deliver.”

How, then, could both the committee and the Government conclude that discretion should be given to councils to do nothing about a 20mph speed limit? I find that quite unfathomable, given that we know that the current blanket 30mph limit will continue to kill, maim and destroy lives. That is a fact that every MSP must think on when they choose which way to vote on the bill.

If the Government wants Scotland to be the best place for children to grow up in, it should prove it by making their streets safer places to play, walk and cycle in. If it backs 20mph as the safe speed limit in those streets, I ask it please not to leave it to a postcode lottery. Leave the change to Parliament instead, and back this bill for the sake of all future generations.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill.

15:10  



Edward Mountain (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I am pleased to contribute to the debate as convener of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

The committee’s stage 1 report, which was published on 31 May, is clear. The committee supports the bill’s policy aim of seeking to widen the implementation of 20mph zones in Scotland in order to reduce death and serious injury on our roads. I thank the member in charge for promoting that important objective and his recent response to our report, and I also thank the cabinet secretary for helpfully responding to the report before today’s debate. Finally, I thank all those who submitted evidence to the committee and the clerks for their help and support in the process.

It is important to highlight that the committee heard very mixed views on the bill. Furthermore, the available research was also often mixed, and the conclusions were often very inconclusive. That has shaped the committee’s conclusions on this bill, to which I will now turn.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Will the member give way?

Edward Mountain

I am prepared to do so, if I can get the time back.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I have already said that there is time in hand for everybody, so do not be feart.

Edward Mountain

In giving way, though, I ask the member to remember that I am reflecting the views of the committee, and will do so carefully.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

You have been told, Mr Finnie.

John Finnie

I am grateful to the member for taking the intervention. I absolutely accept that that is what the committee convener will do, but will he also point out that, although we did hear mixed views, members themselves interpreted the evidence that we heard differently?

Edward Mountain

Indeed, and as I make progress through my speech, I will of course try to reflect the difference of opinion between members.

On the issue of public health outcomes and social benefits, the committee concluded that 20mph sign-only zones have contributed a small but important increase in active travel modes such as walking and cycling, due to an increased perception of safety. We also acknowledged that reducing the speed limit might improve air quality, although the evidence on that was inconclusive. We also felt that 20mph zones might contribute to social inclusion, quality of life and the liveability of neighbourhoods and streets, but only effectively if they were part of wider urban place making.

The committee also heard mixed views on whether 20mph speed limits would have an impact on either journey times or traffic congestion. The available research suggested that 20mph limits do not generally have a significant impact on either.

As for the practicalities of implementing the bill, I would like to highlight the following points on behalf of the committee. The bill proposes that its provisions be commenced at the end of a period of 18 months after its enactment, but the public agencies that would implement the bill’s provisions called for a longer period, given existing and forthcoming commitments.

With regard to compliance and enforcement, the committee found that current compliance with 20mph speed limits is poor and that a combination of measures such as traffic calming and speed limits is more effective than a speed limit by itself.

Andy Wightman (Lothian) (Green)

Will the member give way?

Edward Mountain

I am prepared to do so, on the basis that I outlined earlier.

Andy Wightman

The member’s points about compliance and commencement can be addressed as the bill proceeds through Parliament. Does he agree that they are not germane to the principle of the default speed limit in Scotland?

Edward Mountain

I am sure that other members of the committee will comment on that. However, what we heard from Police Scotland is that it does not prioritise enforcement of current 30mph or 20mph zones. Police Scotland confirmed that its focus is on enforcing speed limits on higher speed roads where serious accidents are more likely to occur.

Daniel Johnson (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)

Will the member give way?

Edward Mountain

I am afraid that I have already taken two interventions. [Interruption.] I think that it is fair to allow the committee convener to try to put the committee’s view across without questioning him on it, as members will have an opportunity to question each committee member.

As I said, Police Scotland is focused on enforcing limits on higher speed roads. That might not be viewed as an impediment to compliance with 20mph limits. However, the committee was of the view that the proposals in the bill would be unlikely to result in any change to Police Scotland’s approach to enforcing speed limits.

On the issue of public awareness, the committee heard that a detailed, concerted campaign would be required to raise awareness of the proposed reduced speed limit, should the bill be passed. We learned that such a campaign would need to be more extensive and sustained than the bill proposes. Overall, it would need to create a major shift in the cultural understanding of why the speed limits exist, with the aim of increasing compliance rates.

The committee also found that the existing processes for local authorities to implement 20mph speed limits are cumbersome and resource intensive. We are of the view that those processes should be more straightforward to make implementation easier. Consequently, we welcomed the Scottish Government’s current exercise with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland to consider ways in which those processes can be simplified and improved. The cabinet secretary’s response to the committee’s report does not provide any further information on that exercise. I ask him, on behalf of the committee, to ensure that the committee is kept updated on the progress and outcomes of the review.

The committee also heard about wide-ranging uncertainties around the estimated costs and savings for the bill, leading the committee to conclude that the financial memorandum is not robust. Costs that were not fully recognised include the following: assessments of affected roads; local authorities wishing to retain roads as 30mph zones; and establishing the total number of restricted roads that would be subject to the bill’s proposals, given that this number is not known. There was also no estimation of the costs related to staff and resources in the police force and criminal justice system or of Scottish Government costs for the trunk road network.

The cabinet secretary has clarified in his response that the Scottish Government would have to provide additional financial support to local authorities if the bill were passed. However, that financial support would have to come from existing transport budgets, potentially diverting resources away from existing activities.

Finally, the committee also noted the very clear message given by the Scottish Government throughout the stage 1 process that a great deal of further consideration to the process, impact and consequences of a nationwide default 20mph limit on restricted roads would be required before it would be in a position to fully support the bill.

The key point for the committee has been to determine whether the bill’s proposal to introduce a 20mph speed limit on all restricted roads in Scotland by default is the most effective way to deliver a significant increase in 20mph zones. Our majority view is that the default 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.

As a result, the committee is unable to recommend the general principles of the Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill to the Parliament. I look forward to hearing other members’ contributions to the debate.

15:18  



The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity (Michael Matheson)

First, I thank Mark Ruskell for his member’s bill, which has generated a wide-ranging national debate on 20mph speed limits.

I have followed the committee’s consideration of the bill closely, and I would like to thank its members for their diligent and comprehensive scrutiny of the bill’s proposals. I note the findings of the committee; I am sure that the committee’s decision was a difficult one to reach, which highlights the complex nature of the matter.

I will briefly explain why the Scottish Government is not in a position to support the bill. Through “Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to 2020”, we are committed to reducing road risk. Scotland has well-established casualty reduction targets on which we have successfully made progress in recent years. The Government is also committed to an active travel vision in which communities are shaped around people, and in which walking and cycling are the most popular choices for shorter everyday journeys.

The bill brings together two issues that must not be conflated. The first is the question whether 20mph speed limits are beneficial. The Scottish Government’s clear view is that we support implementing 20mph limits in the right environment, because they have the potential to encourage more active travel and increase people’s feeling of safety.

The second issue is the question whether the blanket approach is the best way of achieving the desired benefit.

Andy Wightman

The cabinet secretary refers to a “blanket approach”, which reflects the committee’s language about “a one-size-fits-all approach”. Surely, as a matter of principle all around the world, a default speed limit is a default speed limit: it takes a one-size-fits-all approach. The only question is whether the speed limit should be 30mph or 20mph.

Michael Matheson

The committee’s point was about compliance and effective operation. We must have a default speed limit on which we can get greater levels of compliance. The evidence shows that if additional measures are not provided alongside the speed limit reduction, compliance is not of a good standard.

Further consideration would need to be given to the process for, impact of and consequences of a nationwide default 20mph speed limit, including an assessment of Scotland’s road network, before we could be sure that the bill would achieve its aim. We would need to ensure that the bill would have no unintended consequences, such as detrimental effects from reducing the speed limit to 20mph on some restricted roads, or inhibiting consistency across the country by not reducing the limit on non-restricted roads where a 20mph speed limit would be desirable.

Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green)

The cabinet secretary suggests that we should not pass laws unless we are absolutely sure that they will be enforced. Did he take that view when Scotland decided to ban smoking in public places? The cabinet secretary must have a vision. He does not like presumed liability, he will not pay for infrastructure and he is not interested in reducing the speeds on our roads. What exactly will he do to make Scotland’s streets safer for people?

Michael Matheson

As I have made clear, the Scottish Government supports the introduction of 20mph zones. However, we do not support a one-size-fits-all blanket approach to all restricted roads, which is exactly what the bill proposes.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

Will the cabinet secretary take an intervention?

Michael Matheson

Let me make progress.

To achieve the benefits that 20mph speed limits bring, particularly for road safety, we need to ensure compliance with them. Police Scotland clearly advised the committee that speed limits should, in effect, be self-enforcing and seen to be appropriate by a significant majority of motorists. Implementing speed limits that are appropriate to the road design and conditions, rather than applying a blanket 20mph sign-only speed limit, ensures that other speed limits are not brought into disrepute.

I note the committee’s conclusion that the bill’s proposed approach for all restricted roads to default to 20mph before an assessment has been carried out to examine whether the current speed profile and road design lend themselves to a sign-only 20mph speed limit is not appropriate. It would restrict local authorities’ flexibility to devise 20mph limits that they consider to be appropriate in their areas.

Daniel Johnson

Will the cabinet secretary please explain why on earth a road whose design is acceptable for a 30mph limit is not appropriate for a 20mph limit? I do not understand that and would appreciate an explanation.

Michael Matheson

In its report, the committee highlights the fact that design features are key factors that influence the speed at which people drive on roads. That is why, for many 20mph zones in various local authority areas, there are additional traffic-calming measures in order to achieve compliance. Sign-only 20mph speed limits do not achieve that level of compliance. The evidence from cities that have taken that approach has demonstrated that. That is why I remain convinced that local authorities are best placed to make local decisions, based on their local knowledge and evidence on where 20mph speed limits should be implemented.

Both the Government and COSLA have always recognised the ambition of the bill and understand its rationale. However, the practical challenges of a one-size-fits-all approach are significant. Both the Government and COSLA remain supportive of creating safer roads for all road users, but that must be achieved through identifying more flexible alternative ways of widening implementation of 20mph zones and speed limits in Scotland.

Therefore, we are taking forward a range of work with our partners to identify more straightforward, efficient and effective procedures for local authorities, in order to encourage wider use of 20mph speed limits. One example of the work that is being undertaken is a review of the current traffic regulation order process, which will determine whether the process creates a barrier to the implementation of 20mph speed limits. We have sought the views of local authorities on the TRO process, and have provided an opportunity for them to detail their concerns and to consider whether the process could be streamlined. Once that analysis is complete, we will share the results with stakeholders and outline options that could be pursued to improve the process.

Mark Ruskell

Will the cabinet secretary give way on that point?

Michael Matheson

I want to make progress, and I am about to finish.

Solutions can be taken forward through collaborative working with our partners in local authorities. I consider that the blanket sign-only approach that is proposed in the bill, without identification of the roads that would be affected, will not achieve its aims. The road assessment is required in order to examine whether the current speed profile and road design lend themselves to sign-only 20mph speed limits, and whether they will achieve the benefits that we all wish to see.

Given all of the above, I support the conclusions and recommendations of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. I can also assure the chamber that we will continue to take forward measures to assist our colleagues in local government to introduce a wider range of 20mph speed limits in urban areas.

15:27  



Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

I sincerely thank Mark Ruskell, his staff and his team for bringing forward the proposed legislation. We appreciate the hard work that goes into a member’s bill; I can only imagine the workload that it has added to his office. I give credit to the member, because in the very early days of the process, from day 1, he took a great deal of time and effort to meet Opposition members, to share his thoughts and to listen to our views and concerns. I was happy to welcome members of the twenty’s plenty group to my office and to have a frank and productive conversation with them. Such was and is my good will in approaching the bill logically and respectfully.

Even though the majority view of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee was not to recommend the general principles of the bill, that does not mean that Conservative members do not support the concept of lower speed limits or zones, nor is this the end of the road when it comes to how we, as a Parliament and as politicians, hold the Government to account on the issue.

I will not lie: when the bill was originally announced, I was quite sceptical. However, as a member of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, as my party’s spokesman on transport, and as a pedestrian, cyclist and driver, I approached the debate with an openness to listening and learning. What struck me most in the stage 1 evidence sessions was the sheer inconsistency of the evidence and data that were presented to us, and the conflicting and, at times, confusing views that were presented. I see members shaking their heads, but I sat there for every evidence session.

The committee genuinely found it difficult, when meeting in private following the evidence sessions, to agree on the outcomes and to accept the veracity of the evidence. A bit of me hoped that such would be the strength of the evidence that it would be profoundly helpful, one way or the other. However, that was not the case.

I appreciate that the recommendations in the committee’s report will not please everyone, and must be deeply disappointing and frustrating to the lobby that supports the bill, but I assure members that we approached and considered the issue diligently, as parliamentary committees should do. We gave the member and the bill the respect that they are due, but we came to the conclusion that we could not support the bill. That did not feel in any way like a victory to the people who were not keen on the bill from day 1.

Let me be honest and ask this about the status quo: is the system for rolling out 20mph zones in this country working perfectly? Is every community that wants a reduced speed limit in its area able to secure a zone easily and efficiently? If the answer to those questions is no, I suggest that today’s debate is not the end but the beginning of the conversation, because any suggestion that the committee did not support the principles of the bill because we do not care about public safety, children, cyclists, pedestrians or the environment is misguided and unhelpful.

Daniel Johnson

I appreciate that Jamie Greene would like to go further on 20mph. Will he enlighten Parliament on the proposals for 20mph limits that the Conservative Party will have in its next manifesto?

Jamie Greene

We are happy to support the further roll-out of 20mph zones. Let me say two things about that. I was going to come to this later, but I am happy to do so now. First, the current TRO process is, as the committee said, “cumbersome”, “onerous” and “difficult” for local authorities that want to introduce 20mph zones; it should be improved. Secondly, as other members said, it is for local authorities to make those decisions: I do not think that the approach in the bill gives local authorities sufficient flexibility to do what is right in their areas. What is right for urban Scotland might not be right for parts of rural Scotland.

Colin Smyth

Will the member give way?

John Finnie

Will the member take an intervention?

Jamie Greene

I ask members to let me make progress, please—

John Finnie

It is on that very point.

Jamie Greene

I have a lot of points to make. I will make progress, and then I will happily let members in.

We heard from a wide range of stakeholders. I will not go into the evidence that we heard; other committee members or members who have an interest in the matter will do so.

We need to look at the practicalities of what a nationwide change from 30mph to 20mph would look like. The convener talked about the rather controversial comments from Police Scotland, which said in March that catching people who break the 20mph limit would not be a priority. I think that Police Scotland has acknowledged that that was not an easy or popular thing to say. In a subsequent submission, Police Scotland said that people

“may not understand the evidence-based decisions behind our current deployment priorities nor accept that resources are finite.”

Of course, it is right that the police should tackle all rule breaking on our roads. In a perfect world they would. However, it is logical that the police must deploy their resource in the hotspots where there are the highest number of road traffic accidents and fatalities. They must tackle dangerous and high-speed driving on roads such as the A909 and A809, not people who drive down Broughton Street in Edinburgh’s new town at 25mph at 2 am.

We have to be realistic, and we have to legislate sensibly.

Mark Ruskell

Will the member give way?

Jamie Greene

I will, if I have time.

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

Indeed you do.

Mark Ruskell

Did Mr Greene engage with the evidence from Professor Adrian Davis that said that although a high number of people are killed on rural roads, a far greater number of people are seriously injured—with life-changing injuries—on residential streets? We are talking about people dying in residential streets—where my school friend died. He did not die on a road like the A9; he died on a residential street in the area where he lived, and it is in residential streets that the police need to take more enforcement action.

Jamie Greene

The member has made his point and I hope that the police are listening to it and will reflect on it.

This has not been an easy bill to consider, but the committee gave its all. There is nothing in the bill that we did not look at. We looked at the finances—I know that it is not all about money. We looked at the impact that the approach would have on average speeds, and we found that the result would be negligible. We looked at congestion, we looked at air quality, we looked at accident reduction and we looked at adherence to and enforcement of 20mph limits. Nothing was left out. The bill did not garner sufficient support, and although our scrutiny answered some questions, it generated many more.

I will end on a mixed note. As I said at the outset, I do not think that the Government has been let off the hook on the issue; I would like the current process to be improved. Mark Ruskell’s aims and ambitions are laudable, and I hope that he will command the respect of the chamber for introducing his bill. However, in my view, it is the wrong answer to the right question. Mr Ruskell can rest assured that, if the Government does not react to his concerns or to the committee’s concerns, Conservative members will work with him and anybody else to ensure that, if there continue to be barriers to establishing 20mph zones where they are wanted, he will have our support in tackling them.

15:35  



Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

I am pleased to open the debate on behalf of Labour and to make it clear that we will vote to put children’s safety first by supporting the bill.

It is important to put on record the fact that, although some members have referred to “the view of the committee”, it was not the view of the whole committee; almost a third of the committee’s members clearly dissented from that view.

I thank Mark Ruskell for introducing the bill, because it has put the issue of lower speed limits on the political agenda and forced a long-overdue discussion on the failure of the current approach to 20mph limits to deliver the benefits to more communities.

Those benefits are clear and evidenced. Research by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health showed that the introduction of a 20mph speed limit in Scotland could result in up to 755 fewer casualties a year and five fewer fatalities. Multiple studies have shown a reduction in emissions, with research in Wales suggesting that transport emissions are reduced by 12 per cent where there are 20mph limits. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that 20mph limits be introduced because of the benefits that that brings in reducing air pollution. Research by the Department for Transport reported a “statistically significant” increase in active travel in response to the introduction of 20mph speed limits, and Edinburgh’s pilot showed that there was a 7 per cent increase in the number of journeys that were taken on foot, a 5 per cent increase in the number of journeys that were taken by bike and a 3 per cent decrease in the number of journeys that were taken by car.

During stage 1, the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee heard about the social, environmental and safety benefits of 20mph speed limits. From improved road safety to reduced emissions to increased levels of active travel, the case for 20mph limits in built-up areas was clear. We are not talking about a rural versus urban issue. The bill would enable residential areas, whether they are in villages or cities, to gain from those benefits, and that is why it has strong public support—indeed, it received the backing of more than 80 per cent of the respondents to its consultation. Given the strength of the evidence and the support for the bill, I am disappointed that a majority of committee members decided not to recommend that the general principles of the bill be agreed to.

One of the myths that people cite in opposition to the bill is the claim that it would not work because, in existing 20mph areas, many people do not stick to that speed limit. The cabinet secretary made that point. However, that is an argument against the current ad hoc policy. It is a reason to support the bill, not to oppose it. Drivers are used to driving at 30mph. It is only by making 20mph the norm that we will change that culture and habit such that people become used to driving at 20mph. A national approach would help to ensure that that happens and that the benefits of 20mph zones are shared more equally among communities. The Faculty of Public Health in Scotland raised that issue in its submission. It stated:

“Allowing each local Council to pick and choose the areas that implement 20mph limits or zones risks widening health inequalities.”

The introduction of 20mph limits has been proven to deliver significant health benefits, from safer roads to reduced pollution to increased active travel. A postcode lottery should not determine whether people get those benefits. Only a new national default 20mph limit will deliver those benefits for all.

One of the committee’s recommendations was that it

“supports the aim of seeking to widen the implementation of 20mph zones in Scotland with the objective of reducing death and serious injuries on roads.”

In reply to a question that I asked the cabinet secretary during our evidence session with him, he said that 20mph limits should be introduced

“where there is good evidence that they should be introduced,”

but the reality is that that will not happen under the current system. Although councils may choose to introduce 20mph zones in their areas, many choose not to do so, even when there is clear demand for that and evidence in support of it. The piecemeal, ad hoc approach that is taken at the moment has not, will not and cannot deliver the long-term cultural change that is needed.

The Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland told the committee that, in some local authorities, there is a

“reluctance to roll out 20mph limits more widely.”—[Official Report, Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, 6 March 2019; c 37, 10.]

SCOTS also stated that local councils have made it clear that simply tweaking the TRO process to reduce the financial and administrative burden of introducing a new speed limit street by street—welcome though that may be—will not deliver the change that is needed. We need national action and national leadership. Agreeing to the general principles of the bill and allowing it to move beyond stage 1 would enable us to start to have the debate about what form that national action should take.

It would also be an opportunity to test the myths about the bill, including the claim that it would implement a one-size-fits-all approach across the country, even where 20mph speed limits would not be appropriate. That is simply not true. The bill would change the default speed limit for built-up areas and local authorities would still have the power to exempt roads from the default speed limit, just as they are able to introduce higher limits in some 30mph zones now.

The bill is no more a one-size-fits-all approach than the current policy of 30mph is a one-size-fits-all approach. What is being dismissed as a one-size-fits-all approach is actually a call for consistency to avoid confusion, to encourage long-term behavioural change and to ensure that the benefits of 20mph limits are felt equally across the country.

Those who claim that local authorities should have to do the work to deliver 20mph street by street—because that is what they want—ignore the fact that many local authorities support the bill as what it proposes would be less onerous and expensive than the current system. The City of Edinburgh Council told the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee that implementing the new speed limit in that way, as opposed to doing it independently and street by street, would have more than halved the cost.

Another myth is that the bill would increase speed limit enforcement problems. That is simply not true—there is no evidence to suggest that enforcement problems for 20mph zones are any different from the ones that we face in existing 30mph zones. That is an issue about police resources and priorities.

If the Government is truly convinced that the approach set out in the bill is not the best way to achieve the aim of moving towards a speed limit of 20mph in residential areas, it needs to come up with alternatives, because the current system is failing our communities. It needs to show the same leadership in Scotland as that shown in Wales, where the Welsh Government has set up a task and finish group to look at how to achieve its aim of implementing a default speed of 20mph. Transport for London is also rolling out 20mph across central London, and the mayor, Sadiq Khan, wants that expanded beyond the centre.

It is time for Scotland to catch up with other parts of the UK. My challenge to the Scottish Government today is for it to make clear that Scotland will show the ambition that other parts of the UK are showing; that when a child walks to school or to the play park, they will benefit from there being a lower speed limit on those roads; and that where they live should not determine whether they get those benefits. The Government should establish a task force, with a very clear aim of delivering 20mph in residential areas, and make clear that Scotland will become a safer place to live.

15:42  



John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

I thank all my colleagues on the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee for their diligent attention to this matter. At the end of the day, we have come to different conclusions. I am disappointed about that, but I absolutely accept that views are held in good faith. My intervention on Edward Mountain, the convener of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, was not to question his role but to say that, although we all heard the same evidence, we drew different conclusions from it. Maybe it is worth considering why we drew different conclusions.

We are all shaped by our experience. Members who have had the misfortune to deal with a child casualty might have found that that altered their perception about the relative importance of road signs and put them in a different category. My word—any cursory check of the Official Report will show the inordinate and ridiculous length of time that we spent discussing road signs. Road signs are a factor, but the main issue is irresponsible driver behaviour. We know that speed is one of the main causes of casualties. In its briefing to us, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health very simply said:

“slower traffic makes for safer streets which means that fewer children are killed on Scottish roads.”

We all had that briefing; indeed, we have had a number of briefings.

In scrutinising the bill, people will have different views, but another issue is people having different priorities. Anyone analysing the language used in relation to this issue will see that it is shaped on a presumption that the motor car is king. A person walking anywhere who crosses the road at an uncontrolled crossing will find that the presumption is that the motor car is most important, with the right of way given to someone emerging from a junction for example.

I might have mentioned in the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee—although maybe I did so informally in private session—a great Walt Disney cartoon that epitomises a lot of the issues. The cartoon has a character called Mr Walker, who becomes Mr Driver. Mr Walker is a lovely, friendly dog, who walks everywhere and speaks to everyone. When he comes up in the world, Mr Walker gets a car and becomes Mr Driver. What a horrible piece of work he is! He shakes his fist out the window at everyone as he drives along.

Of course, not everyone reacts like that. However, first and foremost, we must consider human beings, and I would have hoped that the human beings who would be at the forefront of our considerations would be those involved in the 755 casualties and five deaths per year. Those are hugely important figures.

Another issue that is germane to the debate and that has peppered many of the discussions that we have had is that of central direction versus local autonomy. I am conscious that Government ministers in particular use that argument, and I absolutely understand why. We in the Green Party like local government, and we like local a lot. I just wonder whether, next week, when we discuss amendments to another piece of legislation, members will say that we should stick to the idea that central determination is inappropriate and that we need local decision making. I fear that that will not be the case, although of course we can take different decisions on different issues.

On enforcement, as a former police officer, I was bitterly disappointed by what I heard from Police Scotland. The approach that we heard about manifests itself in situations in which my constituents and other members’ constituents phone the police and the first thing that they are told is, “We’re very busy.” Well, we are all very busy but, if we tell someone that, we are saying that they are not a priority. Human beings are a priority, and we must direct resources to protect life and property. That is a key function.

The police said that they have a system for prioritising, which relates to deaths. I represent the Highlands, which is a largely rural region where there is not a village or small town that has not been blighted by deaths as a result of excessive speed on rural roads. However, if what shapes our priority is detecting offenders in 20mph areas, and we do not seek to detect them, that will skew the basis on which we formalise our priorities. That evidence was deeply disappointing, never mind the fact that some of it was contradictory.

Liam Kerr

I presume that the member recognises that, for whatever reason, the police have limited resources and limited time and therefore must make prioritisation decisions accordingly.

John Finnie

Absolutely. My priority—I imagine that it would be the public’s priority if we asked them—is the 755 casualties that could be prevented and the five lives that could be saved. As I said, irresponsible driver behaviour is a main factor. The cabinet secretary is entirely right that we can design out problems and that some roads are more amenable to 20mph zones. However, there are roads that are designed in that way, such as Easter Road, which I walk every other day, but where people go at excessive speeds. There must be enforcement of the existing arrangements.

On the idea that cost is a factor, everything is absolutely about priorities. My colleague Mark Ruskell mentioned a considerable number of organisations that support the bill. Are we really saying that the number of signs in a rural village is more important than taking steps to address the issue? We assess the risk and put in place steps to ameliorate that risk. The most obvious step that we can take is on speed, and everybody accepts that, including the road professionals and the police. The idea that we are not concentrating on addressing a situation by putting in place legislation that would result in five children’s lives being saved is deeply disappointing.

15:48  



Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

No one could be against a bill that is designed to reduce death and serious injury on our roads, and who could be against measures that would increase child safety? On the face of it, the bill that is before us purports to be just such a bill. Indeed, when its author, Mark Ruskell, responded to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s report on it, he said that the report

“puts the motoring lobby ahead of child safety.”

His approach and response to the committee’s findings about the inadequacies of his bill seem to me to have been designed to try to deflect our criticism of his bill and pretend that some kind of “motoring lobby”, to use his words, has captured committee members. I am pleased that he did not repeat that ridiculous charge today, and I contrast his response with the measured response that we have just heard from my fellow committee member John Finnie.

Members of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee have given the bill a fair hearing. My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I want there to be fewer accidents and safer roads across the country. However, according to the evidence that I heard, the bill would deliver neither of those aims.

It is a myth that the bill would deliver a standard 20mph speed limit to replace the 30mph limits across the country—it would not. Despite the bill’s name, it is designed to reduce the speed limit only on C-class and unclassified roads. Many people in our rural communities want to reduce the speed limit to 20mph on our A-class and B-class roads that run through our villages, but the bill would not do that and, to be fair to Mark Ruskell, he does not pretend that it would.

The bill would force every single road and track in our villages that are covered by street lighting to have 20mph signs erected at the junctions where they meet the through-village roads. It would miss the road safety target spectacularly.

Mark Ruskell

Will the member give way?

Mike Rumbles

No.

Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab)

It is his bill.

Mike Rumbles

Members have had their chance. We have had two speeches from the Greens already. They have made their points. Let me make the points from my perspective, and then I might take an intervention later.

The evidence from rural local authorities such as Scottish Borders Council—we have heard criticism of that council—repeatedly suggested that speed is not the major cause of death and serious injury in the areas that would be affected by the bill. Slow-moving vehicles reversing and the like were far more of a danger. Such councils were concerned about the need to spend scarce resources on safety measures on their rural 60mph roads, where deaths and serious injury are far too common. I can vouch for that in Aberdeenshire. The councils were concerned that the money that they would have to spend as a result of the bill would be taken away from their road safety focus.

Addressing the issue of money head on, the transport secretary, in a letter to our convener, said:

“the costs associated with this Bill have been significantly underestimated and if this Bill was passed would divert resources away from existing road safety and active travel activity, potentially undermining work that would be more effective at reducing casualties.”

When the committee said in its report that it

“is of the view that the estimated costs and savings associated with the Bill proposals are not robust”,

we were being polite. When I asked Mark Ruskell at a committee meeting how he estimated his costs in the financial memorandum that accompanies the bill, he said that he had looked at Angus Council and simply extrapolated from there. That is simply not good enough, and many of those who gave us evidence estimated that the costs of his bill would be many millions of pounds more than he estimated.

Alison Johnstone

Will the member give way?

Mike Rumbles

No. I have only six minutes.

The City of Edinburgh Council has achieved all that it wished to achieve with its 20mph zones under the current legislation. However, if the bill were passed, that council would need to spend another £1 million—[Interruption.] Members do not like hearing this, but I will say it anyway. The evidence that we received suggests that the council would need to spend another £1 million to take down 20mph repeater signs in order to comply with the law.

Mark Ruskell

Will the member take an intervention?

Mike Rumbles

It would be better if members listened.

Perversely, in my view, the City of Edinburgh Council is in favour of the bill because, as we heard, it thinks that, if the bill were passed, it would get that funding from the Scottish Government. What a waste of public money that would be: every local authority that has already pursued the introduction of 20mph zones would be faced with a bill for taking down their 20mph repeater signs.

Claudia Beamish

Will the member give way?

Mike Rumbles

If I had more time, I would love to take interventions.

I have heard the evidence. Many members in the chamber did not sit through all the evidence-taking sessions that we sat through in the committee. What convinced me that the bill is unnecessary was the evidence from the transport secretary, who told the committee that he already has the power to change speed limits through regulations. If he thought that that was the right thing to do, he would do it. He does not think that it is the right thing to do, and I agree with him. I will say that again: I agree with the transport secretary. For road safety, the bill would be counter-productive.

I gently say to Mark Ruskell that members of the committee have all listened carefully—I would like other people to listen carefully—to all the evidence that was presented to us. To use an advertising slogan, we found that the bill does not do what it says on the tin, and it should not be supported at decision time.

The Presiding Officer

That concludes the opening speeches and we turn to the open part of the debate.

15:54  



Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I rise to speak as someone who signed in support of the proposed bill, but who, having heard the evidence, has come to a disappointing conclusion—it is as disappointing for me as it will be for others.

Let us start with the fundamental thesis, which is a matter on which we will undoubtedly agree. There is European Union research that says that a human-car collision at 20mph has a 10 per cent probability of fatality. At 30mph, the probability of fatality rises to 40 per cent, and at 50mph, the probability is 100 per cent. We can draw the line on a chart: increasing speed in a collision causes deaths.

Those figures are for an adult being hit by a vehicle. I do not have equivalent figures for a child being hit by a vehicle. However, we should not think for a second that the effects would be substantially less severe. I think that we have a shared view—I am sure that Mike Rumbles would agree with this—that speed kills. The question is not so much whether there is a problem waiting to be solved and to which we should turn our attention as how we should solve that problem.

I have some numbers from other research. A 1 per cent increase in speed results in a 4 per cent increase in fatal accidents. The relationship between speed and the outcome of accidents is clear and unambiguous. The work of the committee absolutely recognised that.

We must be careful about what the bill does. There is a danger that we mislead ourselves on that. I confess that I have not looked at the detail of what the Welsh are proposing to do. I heard Mark Ruskell—whose every effort on the bill I utterly commend, without reservation—say that the Welsh are changing the national speed limit. However, the bill before us does not do that—it addresses only restricted roads.

Despite previously having been transport minister, I had never heard of restricted roads or knew what they were—it was not a distinction of which I was aware. Mike Rumbles referred to a restricted road as being a road that is not an A road or a B road and has lampposts no more than 185m apart. That properly covers most of the roads in most of our towns and villages where pedestrians, and young pedestrians in particular, are likely to be found.

John Finnie

I am very grateful to the member for taking a brief intervention. Given what he has just said, does he agree that it is astonishing that people, including the cabinet secretary, say that they do not know the total length of such roads?

Stewart Stevenson

Paragraph 140 of the committee’s report notes that the committee heard that

“21 per cent of local authorities have ... identified the roads that they would wish to switch to a 20mph limit and those on which they would retain a 30mph limit. Another 29 per cent say that they have the asset data to allow roads to be identified.”—[Official Report, Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, 6 March 2019; c34.]

There is certainly a lot of ignorance out there about the state of our roads and I accept that that is a driver to do something about it. That is unambiguous. It is disappointing that the percentages are as low as reported at paragraph 140 of the committee report, because ignorance is not a good basis for policy making and action on the ground. I congratulate urban areas, such as Edinburgh, that have invested the time and effort in making the difference.

It is worth reminding ourselves of the evidence we heard that the introduction of a 20mph zone where the limit had previously been 30mph appears to result in only a 1mph reduction in average speeds. However, averages are not the whole story. I have to say that the real problem is what those who break the law do on a 20mph road compared to a 30mph road. I do not think that we took evidence that answered that question, but we probably instinctively believe—I instinctively believe—that someone who is going to break the law will break the law anyway. We should not therefore simply put the question of enforcement to one side.

Jamie Greene

I am listening with careful interest to my committee colleague. He started off by saying that he was a proposer and a proponent of the concept behind the bill. I am interested to learn what was the primary thing that made him change his mind and take the position that he now takes. It would be helpful to know that.

Stewart Stevenson

I was just about to come to that. It is a perfectly proper question that I should be asked, given my starting and ending points in the debate. It is also worth saying, in the interests of balance, that political colleagues who will speak from the SNP benches will give different views of the subject.

Ultimately, I was driven by the evidence to the conclusion that the bill is not the most straightforward way of achieving the objectives that it sets for itself. It might be easier to do that by changing the speed limit.

First, many villages have streets that do not have street lighting so, strictly speaking, they are not caught by the restricted road requirement. Mr Chapman and I could probably identify one or two.

Mark Ruskell

Will the member give way?

Stewart Stevenson

Yes.

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani)

The member is in his final minute.

Stewart Stevenson

I am sorry; I wanted to be helpful to Mr Ruskell.

Equally, many A or B roads go through many towns or villages and it would be appropriate to consider them for a 20mph limit.

The bill is a worthy attempt to address the issue, but it falls short in terms of capability of implementation and cost of implementation. I went through a little village close to me recently, and I counted that it would need 80 signs.

We must not take the pressure off the Government and the cabinet secretary to find a way forward, but I am not persuaded by the evidence that the bill is the way forward. I say that with grave disappointment, because I support the member’s objectives.

16:01  



Liam Kerr (North East Scotland) (Con)

I am pleased to be given the opportunity to speak today, not as a committee member, but as an advanced driver of 26 years who used to put in around 40,000 road miles a year through most UK towns and cities. I am also a commuting, road and racing cyclist who believes strongly in active travel and the need to get more people cycling, particularly on urban roads.

I say that at the outset, because I want to recognise the work that Mark Ruskell has put into the bill. I believe that he is asking the right questions. He is seeking practical measures that could improve air quality, encourage active travel, reduce pollution and reduce accidents. That is the right thing to do, but I do not believe that the bill will achieve it.

For example, if everybody was driving at 20mph then of course any accidents—which will still happen—would be less serious than they would be at greater speeds. However, despite the member’s response to my earlier intervention, I know that that will not happen. I saw the committee’s conclusion that compliance with 20mph limits is poor, and that supports evidence from Transport Research Laboratory research several years ago that found that 20mph limits reduced average speed by 0.9mph. The first area to introduce a blanket 20mph limit was Islington, and it cut the speed of 85 per cent of traffic—not all of it—by 1mph on average. The evidence suggests that a mandatory 20mph limit would not significantly reduce speed, and I am not convinced that it is right to mandate a cost of £10 million on to our local authorities for a possible return of 1mph.

Mark Ruskell

It would be £10 million across the whole of Scotland. There has been a lot of confusion about this in the committee, so does the member not recognise that an average speed is an average, and that there has been a much greater reduction in speed, particularly on higher speed roads, when the 20mph limit has been introduced? We might be looking at a reduction of 8, 9 or 10mph on those higher speed roads; that is what the evidence has shown.

Liam Kerr

I do not accept that that will happen across the board. I point the member to what Stewart Stevenson said about average speed. His point was well made. When we average out the speeds, we get a certain answer, but we need to understand what happens when people do not comply. I will come back to that point shortly, if I may.

I am not convinced that a 20mph limit would impact materially on safety. There is a Department for Transport study that suggests that. Ironically, a study from York suggests that 20mph limits could increase rather than reduce the risks, because they lull pedestrians into a false sense of security. That understanding of behaviour is important, as it applies equally to drivers. If the need for people to consciously drive is removed, their attention is reduced. If an arbitrary limit is imposed on a straight and clear urban artery with minimal traffic on a sunny day, drivers will glaze over, or they will simply ignore it, as happens now with blanket prohibitions that take no account of prevailing conditions.

Mark Ruskell

It is just incredible that Liam Kerr has not engaged with the evidence. The four-year Department for Transport report found no evidence for the claims that he is making.

Liam Kerr

I absolutely do engage with the evidence, and I speak as a driver. The problem is that we cannot divorce the bill from the reality of what is going on outside and what will happen.

Research suggests that drivers use clues from the environment around them to judge appropriate speeds. Good drivers know that a limit is just that: it is a limit, not a target. As a practical solution, we should ensure that drivers are trained to judge the appropriate speed and not delegate responsibility to an arbitrary yet mandated limit. Where limits do not match the environment or prevailing conditions, uncertainty and confusion are generated, which distract from appropriate decision making. On the contrary, a speed limit that matches the road environment and promotes self-compliance and confidence in the system removes the need for enforcement.

Would the limit be enforced? No. I found Chief Superintendent Carle’s evidence to the committee persuasive. He said that he would target limited resources to where the majority of casualties take place.

I think that the committee heard that mobile camera units are not even calibrated for 20mph.

Stewart Stevenson

Will the member take an intervention?

Liam Kerr

I am very short on time.

Stewart Stevenson

It is information that Liam Kerr needs. That was initially said to the committee and subsequently corrected.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I can allow Liam Kerr some extra time.

Liam Kerr

I am very grateful to Stewart Stevenson.

John Finnie is right. As he said, what causes casualties is irresponsible driver behaviour. I go back to what Stewart Stevenson said. A speed limit will be breached by irresponsible drivers, whatever happens.

I simply do not believe that there would be an increase in the safety of cyclists. Even if a 20mph limit were put on the Great Western Road in Aberdeen, my wife and kid would still not be on it. If the £10 million that the committee heard about was spent on segregated bike lanes, we would then start to talk.

The solution—the way to increase road safety and remove decisions on adherence to road laws, and the solution to the issue of enforcement—is targeted 20mph zones that are enforced by appropriate measures such as speed bumps and road designs that are determined by those who know a community’s roads best, who are the people who live in the community, key stakeholders and the local authority. The measures should be restricted to locations in which, and times when, the need for a 20mph zone is obvious.

Any 20mph zone must be self-enforcing by ensuring that the signposting, features and traffic-calming measures make sense to the road users. Instead of imposing restrictions on all drivers to catch the careless, the uncaring or the irresponsible, segregated design features for enhanced pedestrian and cycling safety should be built in.

The bill’s fundamental premise of a blanket 20mph limit would fail to achieve its stated aims, and there are better ways to achieve behaviour change. For that reason, I will not support the principles of the bill at decision time.

16:08  



John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

I am very pleased to speak in this debate, having been on the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee as we took evidence from Mark Ruskell, the Government and many others.

The first thing that I want to stress is that, as other members have said, there was widespread agreement that 20mph is better than 30mph in residential areas. It is clear that a child or an elderly person who is hit by a vehicle going at 20mph will be much less seriously hurt than they would be if the vehicle was going at 30mph. The issue is particularly important to me, as there are more accidents in deprived areas, such as parts of my constituency.

The Glasgow Centre for Population Health, which is based in Bridgeton in my constituency, argues that there would be

“a significant positive health impact, specifically in reducing the number and severity of road traffic casualties.”

It also says, with regard to the south of central Edinburgh and the permanent scheme in Bristol, that

“significant reductions in road traffic casualties and accidents are potentially possible”

and that

“the introduction of 20mph limits in South Central Edinburgh and Bristol led to reductions in average speed, and in the case of Bristol significant casualty reductions”.

The disagreement on the committee involved not where we want to get to but how to get there. Edinburgh already has 80 per cent of its roads at 20mph so, clearly, that can be done under the present system. However, Edinburgh said that the bill would be helpful as it would save other councils from having to go down the lengthy and expensive route that it had to go down.

Glasgow City Council is supporting the bill. It sees it as providing a simpler and less expensive way of achieving a wider roll-out of 20mph zones. There is a strong argument that having a national approach would provide consistency and is more likely to change public perception. It is in people’s minds now that 30mph is the norm. We need to change that thinking so that 20mph becomes the norm.

I accept that there are arguments against the bill, including, for example, the belief that there would be some uncertainty about which roads are restricted and which are not. Personally, I question whether that uncertainty really affects a huge number of roads. Another argument against the bill involves questions over the robustness of the financial memorandum. However, frankly, having been in this place for about eight years, I think that you could say that about most financial memorandums. Again, I do not think that that is a killer point against the bill.

The potential multiplication of road signs is more of a real challenge. If every A and B road were to remain at 30mph while every restricted road were to be 20mph, it would mean that there would be speed signs on virtually every corner. However, again, the counterargument to that is that Edinburgh has avoided that, to some extent, by making wider areas 20mph—it is not only the restricted roads that are 20mph but, in fact, part of the A1, too. Therefore, councils would still have the power to reduce A and B roads to 20mph, thus giving more of a zonal approach and building on the bill’s focus on the exact classification of certain roads.

On the subject of signage and cost, one big uncertainty has been around repeater signs. Currently, repeater signs are not allowed in a 30mph zone, although they are required for 20mph and 40mph sections in cities. If the bill went through, and the rules were not changed, it would be 20mph repeater signs that were not allowed, while 30mph and 40mph repeater signs would be required. The financial memorandum gives a cost of between £1 million and £2 million for removing existing 20mph repeater signs.

There was quite a lot of agreement on the committee that that system perhaps needs to be reviewed. I think that the cabinet secretary said that he would be prepared to do that. There are certain roads in my constituency, such as Clyde Gateway, a relatively new dual carriageway that members might know, that, by Liam Kerr’s argument, should be 40mph roads. Clyde Gateway feels like a 40mph road, but it is a 30mph road. There are complaints about speeding on it, but the council is not allowed to put up repeater signs. There is an issue there, quite apart from the bill.

On the question of the environmental impact of the bill, the jury is still out. We heard evidence that slowing traffic down could cause some engines to perform less efficiently, whereas we also heard evidence that some engines perform well at lower speeds and that, if traffic flow becomes smoother, that would be positive, too. The Glasgow Centre for Population Health said:

“The health impacts on air pollution of this type of speed limit reduction has not been estimated due to data constraints”.

Enforcement is another key issue. There appeared to be some misreporting in the media of evidence that we received. The police seem clear that their emphasis should be on faster roads outside towns where there is a 60mph limit and on which any crash is more likely to lead to deaths. So, already there may be a question over whether more emphasis should be placed on tackling speeding in residential areas, even if the speed limit stays at 30mph. I do not think that the issue of the speed limit being 20mph or 30mph affects the argument.

One slightly ironic angle to the bill is that we often think of the Greens as the party of localism and decentralisation but, in this case, they appear to be the party of centralisation while the Government is arguing for local authority responsibility to remain unchanged.

In conclusion, I was one of the three who voted to support the bill as the committee prepared its report. I am still not persuaded to oppose the bill, despite strong Government arguments against it. As I have said, I recognise that there are arguments on both sides, and that there is broad agreement that we should be moving towards a wider use of 20mph limits. Therefore, I will be abstaining at decision time today, which will probably keep few people entirely happy. Hopefully, as things progress over time, we will see something else happening.

16:14  



Daniel Johnson (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)

I thank Mark Ruskell for introducing the bill and for doing the hard and diligent work that has gone into it. I know that it is no mean feat to introduce a member’s bill, as I am attempting to do the same thing. It is undoubtedly a worthy and important issue, but, unfortunately, it looks to be one that will not prevail today. We are going to lose the opportunity for Scotland to be, once again, at the forefront of change. At the end of the day, we will return to the issue but, I fear, as a laggard. That is the reality.

It is an important issue. I say that as much as the MSP for Edinburgh Southern, where the initial trial in Edinburgh took place, as I say it as a parent and an Edinburgh resident. It is unequivocal that, if we reduce traffic speeds, we will save people from injuries and we will save lives. Approximately 900 children were injured on our roads in 2017, and the reality is that 20mph limits make children seven times less likely to be injured if they are hit. Indeed, where 20mph limits have been introduced, such as in Hull and in London, we have seen casualty numbers drop by as much as half. That change is worth having and worth making the effort for. It is not going to be easy, and there will be costs, but if introducing 20mph limits saves lives, and if it saves people from injuries, it is worth doing. The decision that members have to contemplate at decision time is whether those injuries are worth preventing and whether those lives are worth saving. That is why I think that the bill is important.

My experience in Edinburgh is that the 20mph limit is achievable. I have had to take a small amount of leadership on it and have personally defended the 20mph limit policy, which was introduced by the previous Labour and Scottish National Party coalition at the City of Edinburgh Council. People said that it was unnecessary and inconvenient and that they do not like driving at 20mph. My favourite comment was someone saying, “My car doesn’t go at 20mph.” All cars go at 20mph. I had to stop myself giving people driving instructions—I did not go that far.

The 20mph limit is worth having and, indeed, it is enforced. I have been out with the local police as they have stopped cars that were going in excess of 20mph just one road over from the one in which I live. In Edinburgh, the experience has been that the average speed is down and local support for the initiative is up. We have already seen a drop in the number of casualties as a result, which is something that the whole of Scotland should enjoy.

My personal experience as a driver is that my car is more fuel efficient since the introduction of the limit—I have seen it on the trip computer. Frankly, I find driving calmer, because traffic speeds are down. I believe that, above all else, our roads in Edinburgh are a better place for all road users, whether they are walking, cycling or driving.

I believe that the bill is a good proposal. It is notable that the City of Edinburgh Council said that the costs that it incurred when it introduced a 20mph limit would have been halved if it had done so under the proposed system. Yes, there are costs, and perhaps the financial memorandum is not 100 per cent accurate—as John Mason pointed out, which financial memorandums are?—but the bill would make the measure cheaper to introduce.

There is a degree of inconsistency in some of the arguments that have been made against the bill. On the one hand, we have heard arguments about compliance, and, on the other hand, we have heard arguments against taking a one-size-fits-all approach. Surely, a consistent approach to the application of our road rules would drive up adherence to them. Are people really arguing that we should have localised highway codes in different towns and villages? That is nonsense. We have a single highway code on our roads because having a single, consistent set of rules is how we make sure that people follow them, as they know what the expectations are.

In 1861, when the first speed limit was introduced, the limit was 10mph. We do not hear people arguing for that limit now, nor do they argue for the red flag bearer who had to precede the car as it was driven down the road. Such things are a matter of habit and culture, and habits and culture can be changed. Indeed, it is our responsibility to seek to change habits and culture when we believe that there would be benefits in doing so, and I believe that this is one of those situations.

Greater consistency would make enforcement easier, and, if having the limit is a priority, we will enforce it. The matter is difficult for police. If 700 officers are removed from local divisions, how do we expect them to enforce even the existing speed limits, let alone the new 20mph ones? However, if it was a priority, we would make it happen. Frankly, it comes down to leadership.

I understand that there are mixed views. When it comes to change, there are always cautious voices. People can be defensive about how they use their cars to go about their local communities, but there is a need for change and it is incumbent on us to stand up and make the arguments for that change. The proposal would make people safer and would save lives. For those reasons, I urge all members to think of their consciences and vote in favour of the bill at decision time.

16:20  



Clare Adamson (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)

I thank Mark Ruskell for bringing this important issue to the fore in his member’s bill. I also thank the members of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee for their diligence and deliberations as they went through the stage 1 proceedings. As a former North Lanarkshire councillor and a member of the Scottish Accident Prevention Council, and as the convener of the cross-party group on accident prevention and safety awareness, I am and will continue to be a full supporter of appropriate 20mph limits in Scotland. I was keen to be a signatory to the proposed bill when Mark Ruskell first brought it to our attention. I have listened to the debate and I have read the evidence and the stage 1 report. I accept that the bill is unlikely to progress today, but I will comment on a number of key areas.

In front of me, I have notice of North Lanarkshire Council’s award-winning entry in the Prince Michael international road safety awards. The entry—“North Lanarkshire – 20’s Plenty: highway engineering improvement, 2005”—explains that

“North Lanarkshire believes that speed reduction will result in casualty reduction. It introduced a 20mph speed limit in every residential area in North Lanarkshire in 2001-2 at a cost of £360,000. North Lanarkshire Council is still the only authority to have introduced the advisory 20mph measures throughout its full area. As part of an integrated programme of public education the 20’s plenty campaign increased public acceptability of this speed reduction measure.”

I also have the statistics for road traffic accidents from 1995 to 2017. In the year following the introduction of that 20mph speed limit, North Lanarkshire had its biggest percentage reduction in the number of road traffic accidents on record. In that time, there was a 15 per cent reduction and there were 144 fewer road traffic accidents. In line with other road traffic accident statistics across Scotland, that figure has continued to improve, and I commend the Government for the work that it has done to encourage safer roads. Those statistics brought home to me the impact that twenty’s plenty can have in a community. Although it was a local decision that was made for local reasons, such an approach could benefit the whole of Scotland.

We are not supposed to use props, but I have with me the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents publication “Scotland’s Big Book of Accident Prevention”. I will read out a couple of facts from the book. We have talked a lot today about money and the cost of the change, so the first fact is that,

“In Scotland, accidents cost society more than £12.4 billion per annum, of which A&E attendances cost the NHS £1.48 billion”.

As well as looking at the cost of a road accident or fatality in Scotland, the book looks at the wider societal costs such as the loss of income, the loss to the economy and what might happen when someone has a debilitating injury that leads to intervention for the rest of their life.

The second fact is that

“Children of parents who have never worked or are long-term unemployed are 20 times more likely to die as pedestrians than children of parents in higher managerial or professional occupations”.

That, for me, is a social justice issue. Reducing the number of accidents and making our society safer for children are as much about tackling poverty and societal inequality as, for example, the use of the pupil equity fund in schools and other interventions such as those that we are putting in place for the early years. This is absolutely crucial.

As has been mentioned, we want Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up in. That being the case, we need to take accident prevention more seriously. As I have said in the chamber on several occasions over the past few weeks, I am delighted that the Government is looking to embed in our legislation the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has a specific section on accident prevention. Accident prevention will continue to be a social justice issue, and we cannot ignore it.

It is unlikely that the bill will go forward today, but I would point out that, although North Lanarkshire Council introduced its twenty’s plenty initiative in 2001, which means that it has been running for nearly the life of this Parliament, it is clear that some local authorities are still dragging their heels on this. Today, I am putting my faith in the Government, our colleagues in COSLA and everyone who has supported the principle of 20mph zones to work with those councils and encourage them to look at what they can do in their local areas to make real progress on the issue. We have had warm words for far too long now; it is time for this to get done.

Although this is not just about signage, among the many things that are coming our way as part of the fourth industrial revolution are black-box technology and modified signs that have the ability to report back on what is happening. At one point, there was going to be a digital map of Scotland that would show all our streets and the speed limit in each area, which could have been linked in to the whole system. That sort of thing would not only help with police enforcement; our insurance companies would surely be interested in it, too.

16:26  



Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab)

Yesterday, I went outside Parliament to meet demonstrators from across the country who understand the significance of the bill. Friends of the Earth Scotland, Cycling UK, pedal on Parliament, Spokes Lothian, GoBike and the twenty’s plenty campaign joined forces to organise the demonstration after the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee failed to recommend that the bill be agreed to at stage 1 and claimed that a one-size-fits-all approach was not appropriate. Dissenting MSPs John Finnie, Colin Smyth and John Mason rejected the conclusion, pointing out that the current patchwork of different speed limits was confusing to motorists. Moreover, in the debate, Daniel Johnson has said that, having seen the effects of a 20mph speed limit in his constituency, he believes that it is achievable and something that all of Scotland should enjoy.

Why, then, can neither the Scottish Government transport secretary nor indeed the majority of the REC Committee grasp the importance of a change that, as Mark Ruskell pointed out earlier, so many councils are in support of? I sat in on two of the committee’s evidence-taking sessions, and found the evidence in favour of Mr Ruskell’s bill to be compelling. The consistency of approach would surely be similar for a default 20mph speed limit as for a 30mph default. This is about residential, living streets and, as Colin Smyth said, only a national default speed limit will bring benefits to all. I find it sad that there were not more MSPs at yesterday’s demonstration to listen to what was being said and to see 60 demonstrators place outside our Parliament a chair for every life that could have been saved. As they said, each chair represented a life interrupted. For that reason alone, we as a Parliament should support the bill at stage 1.

Sally Hinchcliffe of the pedal on Parliament campaign, and a resident of Dumfries, has stated that the bill would succeed in

“eliminating the postcode lottery of safer streets for children walking or cycling.”

I agree. As a city cyclist myself, I am keenly aware of the speed of cars, vans and lorries, and the evidence of a default 20mph speed limit clearly shows that it would encourage more citizens to take up active travel options such as walking or cycling. It is, frankly, a no-brainer.

A shift to active travel would, of course, mean fewer vehicles on our roads and, as John Finnie said, quoting the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health,

“slower traffic makes for safer streets”.

Is the car still king? Does the desire of motorists to go that bit faster count for more than the increased risk of a 30mph limit causing more serious injury and death to vulnerable road users? Surely not.

What of air quality? It is frankly shameful that Scotland has been in contravention of the EU air pollution standards. Air pollution causes about 2,500 early deaths a year in Scotland. It is not only the deaths that we should consider, but the effect of air pollution on vulnerable people with chronic lung conditions. There is increasing evidence about the effect of air pollution on children’s health and now there is research into cancer in children and mental health in children in relation to air pollution. There is also evidence about the contribution of air pollution to the development of Alzheimer’s in older people. Surely any measure that is proven to lower air pollution should be given serious further consideration and not be rejected at stage 1?

There is also evidence that more deprived communities are more affected by road traffic accidents. Analysis by Sustrans found that children in Scotland’s poorest areas are nearly three times more likely to be injured by road traffic. Surely it cannot be right that we fail to address that when we have the opportunity?

It is clear that a 20mph limit around our schools is not enough because many injuries, as I have heard in the committee meetings, occur in the residential streets beyond those limits.

Daniel Johnson stressed that the habits and culture of drivers can be changed and these concerns, as Colin Smyth said, are not restricted to our cities—large villages and small towns are impacted by the range of issues that Mark Ruskell’s bill would contribute to addressing.

Tony Hancock—not the Tony Hancock, but another Tony Hancock, who is vice-chair of the Royal Burgh of Lochmaben and District Community Council—told me recently:

“We have been trying to get a 20mph speed restriction in Lochmaben High Street for the past 10 years. Speed monitoring by the Council has shown that up to 800 vehicles per day are exceeding the 30mph speed limit. Lochmaben has an unusually wide High Street and an ageing population for whom crossing the road can be hazardous.”

Stewart Stevenson

Will the member take an intervention?

Claudia Beamish

I do not think that I have time—I am sorry. I want to make a few points in summing up.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I can allow you the time.

Stewart Stevenson

Can the member confirm that the road through Lochmaben is an A road and therefore would not be covered by the bill?

Claudia Beamish

That is not the case for all the roads in Lochmaben, by any means.

Tony Hancock pointed out, as I said, that Lochmaben has an unusually wide high street and there is a primary school nearby that is accessed from the high street. The point that I am making—[Interruption.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Excuse me, Ms Beamish. I ask Mr Rumbles and Mr Stevenson to stop yelling at each other along their row of chairs. Thank you.

Claudia Beamish

It is important to understand that they also want the 20mph limit to apply in other parts of Lochmaben, including where the primary school is. Tony Hancock has asked me to vote for the bill, which I certainly will. Lochmaben and other villages can rely on the support of Scottish Labour for Mark’s bill.

As Friends of the Earth Scotland reminds us, the measures in the bill would also contribute to tackling the climate emergency by tackling transport emissions. That is also an important issue.

Recently, we have heard from the City of London Corporation that it will reduce the speed limit in the Square Mile to 15mph, subject to Government approval. The proposal follows a notable reduction in deaths and serious injuries on the roads in the region after the 20mph limit was introduced. That reduction was seen as a good reason to bring the limit down further. The corporation states that it will

“make the streets more attractive places to walk, cycle and spend time”.

How depressing that we appear to be falling behind and that we are having to fall back on a default task force—if the minister agrees to it—and some vague and frankly rather weak waffle from the minister. London has been consulting on a default speed limit of 20mph, as has Wales. Europe—let us face it—already has a default speed limit of 30km per hour, which is well below our 30mph.

This bill would make a significant contribution to a whole range of issues, including making roads and residential streets safer and more agreeable. Scottish Labour says, let us support Mark Ruskell’s bill, even at this late stage. We need national action and national leadership.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I remind members to always refer to fellow members using their full names, please.

16:34  



Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

I thank the committee clerks for helping us to draft the report and I thank all those who provided evidence to the committee. Of course, I also thank Mark Ruskell for introducing the bill.

We have had a good debate and I want to start by saying that safer roads are obviously something that we all support, both in the committee and right across Parliament. That has never been in question.

We want everyone to be as safe as possible when they get in their car, jump on their bike or walk to school or work. That is why the committee supported the aim of widening the implementation of 20mph zones where that is appropriate, with the objectives of reducing deaths and serious injuries on our roads and encouraging more people to cycle and walk. However, the committee also had to decide whether it agreed with the bill’s proposal to introduce a default 20mph speed limit on all restricted roads, and we could not accept that proposal.

The committee made the bold but right decision to vote against the bill, because the evidence to support it is not there, as the committee’s report clearly reflects. It became obvious throughout our productive and informative evidence sessions that a blanket one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate for Scotland. In that evidence and in the debate, we have heard that a simple 20mph speed limit has a limited impact on speeds on the ground. Design features on roads are equally important or even more important in lowering speeds. We need self-enforcing limits.

The committee heard that Police Scotland does not monitor or prioritise the enforcing of 20mph limits, so real-time speeds are only about 1mph lower in areas with 20mph limits. That is not a significant reduction.

John Finnie

I know that the committee heard conflicting evidence about speeds, but does Peter Chapman acknowledge that the evidence was unequivocal about the implications of a child being hit by a vehicle and that any potential to reduce speeds at impact, however modestly, is welcome?

Peter Chapman

I agree and have said that that is welcome, but we need to reduce the speed limit in the right places. My problem is that the bill proposes a 20mph limit across Scotland, which I do not agree with.

I agree with Mike Rumbles that where resources are limited—let us be honest that resources are always limited—the bill would divert resources from other measures that could have a far bigger impact on road safety. That is relevant in rural areas such as my part of Aberdeenshire.

Some say that the bill would be good for air quality but, as John Mason said, the committee heard evidence that the effect would be limited—some said that air quality would be slightly better and others said that it would be slightly worse. That was inconclusive, so I disagree with Claudia Beamish that the bill would greatly improve air quality.

The committee agreed that the existing legislative processes that enable local authorities to implement 20mph speed limits should be more straightforward and easier to implement. We therefore welcome the Scottish Government’s current exercise to consider ways of achieving that. I ask the cabinet secretary to comment in closing on how that work is progressing.

The best way to implement speed limit changes is case by case. Local authorities should be able to decide on the areas where a 20mph limit is appropriate. We should let councillors decide that rather than be dictated to from above. It has been abundantly clear for many years and is clear to me as an Aberdeenshire MSP that, in my part of the world, by far the most accidents that cause fatalities or serious injuries happen on rural roads.

A prime example comes from the A947 from Aberdeen to Banff, where the rate of serious and fatal accidents is 60 per cent higher than the national average. The A952 from Ellon to Fraserburgh and the A90 from Aberdeen to Peterhead have similar rates that are horrendously bad. The sad fact is that serious accidents occur on those roads almost every week.

I want investment in infrastructure and in police time and resources for such roads. The message from Scottish Borders Council was very much the same—it said that the bill would have a detrimental financial impact and would be unlikely to have any impact on accidents in that council’s largely rural area. I therefore disagree with Colin Smyth. As far as this argument is concerned, there is a difference between rural and urban areas.

During our evidence sessions, the financial impact of implementing a blanket 20mph limit was unclear, and we consider that the financial memorandum is not robust.

It is clear that, although there is merit in what the bill is trying to achieve, its general principle of a one-size-fits-all, top-down approach is not the way forward, and I will not support the bill.

16:40  



Michael Matheson

I have listened carefully to members’ speeches this afternoon, and I am grateful to all those who have contributed on this important issue. I reiterate my recognition of the work that has been undertaken by Mark Ruskell, and of the debate that it has stimulated on 20mph zones and the 20mph limit.

I set out two important issues in my opening remarks. One was whether 20mph zones and limits are the right thing to do in the right place. Yes, they are. Is what is set out in the bill the right way to go about that? I do not believe that it is.

John Mason summed up the debate very well when he stated that it is not so much about where we want to get to as it is about how we want to get there. That is a particularly important point. It is also important, from my perspective, to put on the record that some of us not agreeing with the proposals that are set out in the bill should in no way be interpreted as our not caring about the safety of children, about speeding on our streets or about safety on our roads. Nothing could be further from the truth. In particular, Mark Ruskell suggested in his speech that, if we are not supporting his bill, we are in some way doing nothing about the issue. Again, that is factually incorrect: I am afraid that it is not a reflection of what is happening.

Alison Johnstone

The latest Transport Scotland statistics tell us that serious accidents involving children walking and cycling have increased, that adult pedestrian deaths have increased, and that there has been a marked increase in the number of adult cyclists involved in serious accidents. Things are going in the wrong direction.

What I am trying to understand is this. The cabinet secretary’s investment in walking and cycling is really pitiful, at 3 per cent of a huge budget, he has never suggested that he is interested in presumed liability, and he does not like my colleague’s proposal. Is he therefore suggesting that he will just leave things to chance? What is he going to do?

Michael Matheson

That type of contribution does not take the debate forward as we try to have a serious and rational discussion about the best way to go about things. I have set out that we have “Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to 2020”, through which we are taking forward a suite of measures to tackle road safety issues. We will continue to pursue that approach with the funding that we are investing.

As an aside, on the issue of the “pitiful” amount that we are putting into active travel, I do not think that a doubling of the budget from £39 million to some £80 million reflects a Government that is not committed to the agenda.

I take exception when it is suggested that because I do not support the approach that is set out in the bill, I do not care about my children’s safety when they walk to school, as anyone in the chamber would. I do care about it—but I want to ensure that we take appropriate measures to address such things.

It is also important that we challenge ourselves to think about whether there are other measures that we can pursue to address compliance and greater use of 20mph zones in the right locations.

As Edward Mountain said in his speech, the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee recommends that the Government consider taking forward and exploring a number of things. One concerns traffic regulation orders and how they operate, at present. It has been highlighted by local authorities that they act as an inhibitor or barrier to their pursuing 20mph zones in their areas. That is for a variety of reasons, including the onerous nature of the consultation exercise that has to be undertaken, and the associated costs, which are largely to do with the advertisements that must be placed in the local press to make the public aware of the matter.

We have been consulting local authorities—the survey results have been returned to us and are currently being analysed—to ascertain what action we can take to remove the inhibitors that have been identified, and to reduce the timeframe and make the system much more flexible and amenable for local authorities to use, when they think that it is appropriate to do so.

Jamie Greene

I appreciate the update from the Government on improving the TRO process.

Another issue that has come up a lot in the debate is the need to shift behaviour and culture in respect of how we drive around our towns and cities. What will the Government do to educate people so that they make the behavioural changes that are needed? This is not just about legislative and technical processes.

Michael Matheson

That is a key part of the road safety framework, which runs until next year and must be refreshed, so that we target resources at driver education programmes and other support, such as school initiatives to promote road safety and cycling safety initiatives. A variety of measures contribute to tackling the issue, and the framework sets out a range of measures.

I heard the statistics that Alison Johnstone mentioned. We should never think that even one death on our roads is acceptable. Our aspiration, which is in the framework, is for there to be no deaths and injuries on our roads. That is, and will remain, our focus as we seek to address the matter.

I talked about action that we are taking. There is extensive guidance and information in place for local authorities on developing 20mph zones. To encourage local authorities to do that, we are engaging with COSLA to consider how we can add to that guidance and encourage a much more strategic approach to introduction of 20mph zones in urban areas.

Clare Adamson described very well how such an approach can be taken when she talked about the work that North Lanarkshire Council undertook in 2001 on the twenty’s plenty initiative. The council wanted to make the issue a priority and applied the approach consistently on the roads in its area on which it thought a 20mph limit was most appropriate. There is nothing to stop other local authorities doing that.

That is why, through our work with COSLA, I am determined to ensure that local authorities drive forward the approach much more consistently and identify the residential areas in which 20mph limits could deliver the benefits that we know they can deliver, where it is right to do so.

The most comprehensive study into a sign-only 20mph approach was undertaken by the Department for Transport and published in November last year. It is worth recognising that that three-year study found that sign-only 20mph speed limits have little impact on actual vehicle speed. We cannot ignore that evidence.

If we are to tackle the issue, we have to be informed by evidence and we have to act in a way that delivers the change that people will expect from a change in the speed limit. If we do not do that, we will undermine the integrity of the speed limit process. As local authorities highlighted in evidence to the committee, if we do not get the speed limit process right, we bring it into disrepute. We should not think that a sign-only 20mph limit will address the issue.

I am conscious of the time. This is a complex issue, on which there are many strongly held views in the chamber. Every member shares an interest in making our communities safer—for ourselves and for our children. No one in the chamber holds the moral high ground on that.

The Government will continue to do everything it can to address road safety. We happen not to believe that the bill is the best way to go about doing that, but we will continue to take forward measures that we think will make a difference, and will make our communities safer for everyone who lives in Scotland.

16:50  



Mark Ruskell

In closing the debate, it would be remiss of me not to thank the many people who have given me assistance in bringing the bill to stage 1. In particular, I would like to thank the non-Government bills unit, the Parliament’s legal team, my researcher, Malachy Clarke, and the many members with whom I have had constructive conversations over the past two years, particularly John Mason, John Finnie and Claudia Beamish. I would also like to thank the 25 members who, by signing the original bill proposal, enabled the bill to get to this point, and the members and clerks of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, which scrutinised the bill. In addition, I thank the many members who have offered many kind words to me this afternoon. I appreciate that.

Turning to the contributions, I think that one of the most disappointing things that I have heard in the debate is the myth that the bill is some kind of top-down, blanket, one-size-fits-all approach. It is not. That is a fundamental misunderstanding of what the bill is about. It is very disappointing to hear that; it is particularly disappointing to hear it from Mr Rumbles, in whose office over the past two years I have explained to him what the bill is about. I am sorry, but I draw the conclusion that Mr Rumbles is an advocate for the motoring lobby first in this chamber, rather than child safety.

Mike Rumbles rose—

Mark Ruskell

Mr Rumbles would not take an intervention from me, and I need to make progress. If Mr Rumbles sees that comment as an insult, he can reflect on it.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I say from the chair that I think that Mr Rumbles is entitled to an intervention, after what was said.

Mark Ruskell

Well, that is for me to decide, Presiding Officer.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

It is for you to decide. I ask you to think about that.

Mark Ruskell

I will take an intervention on that point, then.

Mike Rumbles

It is a point of order, Presiding Officer.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Apologies. I had not heard that you wanted to make a point of order.

Mike Rumbles

I do not wish to intervene on Mr Ruskell, because he has cast a slur on my motivation. He implied that I am some sort of representative of the motor industry. I do not believe that that is consistent with the approach in our code of conduct, and I would like Mr Ruskell to withdraw that allegation.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

That is not a point of order, but Mr Rumbles has made his point, and I ask Mr Ruskell to reflect on what Mr Rumbles has said. Mr Rumbles can take whatever action is appropriate under the circumstances following this meeting.

Mark Ruskell

I am reflecting on it. I am reflecting on the fact that Mr Rumbles was using arguments that were put to the committee by the motoring lobby, which he is advocating, so I stand by my comments.

I want to get back to the debate. I would like to quote what the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland said in its letter to the committee; to be honest, the chief officers of transportation know a little bit more about road signs and the roll-out of 20mph zones than Mr Rumbles does. SCOTS said:

“There appears to be a view expressed in the Report that such a default is not appropriate as it does not give local authorities the flexibility to devise 20mph limits that they consider appropriate for their areas. This is”—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

May I stop you there, Mr Ruskell? Can we have a bit of quiet, please? I understand that members are wanting to discuss things, but this is not the appropriate time. They can be discussed when this meeting of Parliament has concluded.

Mark Ruskell

I will read out the quote again:

“There appears to be a view expressed in the Report that such a default is not appropriate as it does not give local authorities the flexibility to devise 20mph limits that they consider appropriate for their areas. This is not factually correct.”

The people who implement 20mph zones are saying that the approach in the bill is not a one-size-fits-all approach, that it is proportionate and that it would allow authorities to select those roads on which they wished to retain a 30mph limit—the arterial routes.

Stewart Stevenson

Will the member take an intervention?

Mark Ruskell

No, I need to make progress—members have intervened on me a number of times.

I am disappointed in the current cabinet secretary’s view—this is the second cabinet secretary I have worked with on the bill. I hope that I am wrong, but it appears as though the Government is going into reverse on its own 20mph policy. The arguments that the cabinet secretary has made this afternoon go against the roll-out of 20mph that has taken place under Scottish Government guidance in Edinburgh, Clackmannanshire, and Glasgow; they also go against the advice of the Government’s active travel task force. Those local authorities are rolling out sign-only 20mph speed limits and are not investing in infrastructure on every single road. Indeed, the cabinet secretary’s guidance on 20mph moves away from infrastructure changes and putting in lumps and bumps whenever we want to create 20mph zones. I think that that makes a lot of sense, because we do not do that for roads with 30mph or 40mph speed limits—we do not create a design speed for every single road, because in order to—[Interruption.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Excuse me, again, Mr Ruskell. I ask everyone to please stop the rudeness that is happening during the debate. Mr Ruskell is quite softly spoken. I would like to hear him, and I think that everybody else should give some respect to the conclusion of the debate.

Mark Ruskell

Maybe I should raise my voice a bit, Presiding Officer, and we will get this debate going.

We do not design every single road in Scotland to the speed limit that is assigned to it—we rely on signage, other compliance measures and education. The cabinet secretary quotes the Department for Transport report. There is no evidence that setting 20mph speed limits on roads undermines the speed limit compliance on surrounding faster roads. That is the opposite of the conclusion that the Department for Transport report came to. When it looked at the area-wide roll-out of 20mph in Brighton, it found that compliance went up on the surrounding faster A and B roads. Therefore, compliance in that regard simply is not an issue; there are misunderstandings here.

On costs, I think that John Mason made the very astute point that not every financial memorandum is 100 per cent accurate, and I take some criticism on that. However, I again state that I believe that the core, substantive costs in the bill are accurate. The figures were worked on with those who would be tasked with implementing the bill from the organisation that represents all the roads authorities.

The proposed measure would cost 0.75 per cent of the transport budget over two years. Once 20mph is rolled out nationally, we will get the benefits year after year after year—SCOTS has told me that the life of a road sign is 30 years. We will get five lives saved and a reduction of 750 casualties every single year.

This is not a matter of active travel interventions and investment competing against 20mph zones. The experience in Europe is that both are needed. The experience of European cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam is to set the speed limit at a sensible level—that is, 20mph—and to also invest in the infrastructure. To get the change in walking and cycling that we desperately need, we need to start by changing the speed limit.

Of course, the cheapest thing for local authorities to do is nothing. That would simply be unacceptable, but that is the problem that we have at the moment. We have a postcode lottery; we have local discretion. It is interesting to note that the cabinet secretary argues for national consistency when it comes to the Transport (Scotland) Bill and pavement parking, but there is no acknowledgement of our need for national consistency when it comes to 20mph speed limits, which is disappointing given that the Welsh Government has now adopted that principle and wants every single community in Wales to have 20mph speed limits. Whether they are rural or urban communities does not make any difference to the children and vulnerable road users living in those streets—they need that protection.

Jamie Greene asked what the answer is and what the alternative is to the bill. I do not have an answer to that. I have been engaging with the Scottish Government for the past two and a half years. The member says that he is happy to work with me on an alternative. I have been working with his Welsh Tory colleagues, who backed a national default 20mph speed limit for Wales. Maybe Jamie Greene should get in touch with them—David Melding will tell him why that is the most effective approach and why we need to move towards it.

I do not know how much time I have got left, Presiding Officer. Do I have a couple of minutes? I had a lot of interventions.

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

You can take another minute or two if you wish, but I ask that you draw your remarks to a conclusion.

Mark Ruskell

Okay.

One alternative route that the cabinet secretary has put forward is to change the traffic regulation order process to make things simpler. Again, I point to the members of SCOTS, who are the people who would have to implement that measure. SCOTS says that simplifying the TRO procedure would be welcome but that the current procedure is

“not the fundamental cause of the low take up to date of 20mph speed limits”.

It goes on:

“We are therefore cautious on what actual difference any changes would make to a wider 20mph roll-out.”

The cabinet secretary can write as many letters as he likes to SCOTS and local authorities, but I fear that we will be back in the same place in the autumn and that local authorities will turn round and say, “Do you know what? The cheapest and most effective way to get national consistency is to have a national default of 20mph.” We will be back in the same place and I will be on my feet asking the same questions all over again.

Every child and every other person living on every street in Scotland deserves their freedom and their right to play, walk and cycle and to live without fear. Every country and city across Europe that values those rights and freedoms is setting a safer speed limit—a 20mph speed limit. This is Scotland’s moment to put our values first, to put lives first and to vote for safer streets for everyone.

Stage 1 vote on the Bill

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Stage 1 vote transcript

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

The first question is, that motion S5M-17660, in the name of Mark Ruskell, on the Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Presiding Officer

There will be a division.

For

Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (Ind)
Marra, Jenny (North East Scotland) (Lab)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Dugdale, Kezia (Lothian) (Lab)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

Against

Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Swinney, John (Perthshire North) (SNP)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Scott, Tavish (Shetland Islands) (LD)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Harris, Alison (Central Scotland) (Con)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Allan, Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)

Abstentions

Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)

The Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 26, Against 83, Abstentions 4.

Motion disagreed to.

The Presiding Officer

The next question is, that motion S5M-17690, in the name of Mairi Gougeon, on the Wild Animals in Circuses (No 2) Bill, be agreed to.

Motion agreed to,

That the Parliament agrees that the relevant provisions of the Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill, introduced in the House of Commons on 1 May 2019, relating to removing the current exemption for circuses from the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, so far as these matters fall within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, should be considered by the UK Parliament.

Meeting closed at 17:04.  



Fallen

The Bill fell at Stage 1 on 13 June 2019. There were 26 votes for, 83 against, and 4 abstentions.