Edinburgh’s 20mph limit comes under fire at Holyrood

The new speed limit has been controversial. Picture: Jon Savage
The new speed limit has been controversial. Picture: Jon Savage
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EDINBURGH’S move towards a blanket 20mph speed limit has come under fire in the Scottish Parliament.

Lothian Tory MSP Gordon Lindhurst claimed the introduction of lower limits over a large area made motorists less likely to pay special attention when driving in sensitive spots such as close to schools.

He spoke out during a debate at Holyrood where Green MSPs called for the current 30mph default speed limit to be cut to 20mph.

The Capital’s new 20mph restriction on residential roads came into force in the city centre and rural west Edinburgh, including Currie, Balerno and Ratho, on July 31.

And it is due to be rolled out across the whole city by the end of January 2018.

Mr Lindhurst said: “All options should be considered when it comes to possible actions that may improve road safety, but I am not certain that a blanket 20mph policy in Scotland’s urban city areas should be accepted without question.

“Clearly, there are areas within residential and urban zones where 20mph is the appropriate speed limit. Indeed, we have had those zones around schools – in many cases for many years – and few would argue against them.

“A blanket roll-out may have the effect of diverting the attention of the driver away from the significance of adopting slower speeds in areas such as around schools.”

Fellow Tory MSP Alex Johnstone stressed the need for enforcement. “A speed limit that is ignored is arguably even more dangerous than having no speed limit at all,” he said.

Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone said the current 30mph limit left many parents “very cautious” about letting their children out to play.

“There is a real opportunity here to ensure that more people in Scotland have more access to streets.”

Green MSP Mark Ruskell, who sponsored the debate, said understanding of road safety had moved on since 30mph was set as the default limit in urban areas in 1934.

“It is crystal clear that 20mph limits work,” he said. But he claimed the process of introducing traffic regulation orders for 20mph zones was “complex and burdensome” on local authorities and proposed setting 20mph as the default.

Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said he would look at the point, but questioned whether the process was as cumbersome as suggested. “The Edinburgh example is a good one,” he said.

Mr Yousaf said lowering speed was a crucial component in reducing risk on the roads.

“Should we go for a blanket approach? The government is not at the moment convinced of that, because the consultations we have had with local authorities show that they prefer to have discretion about where to roll out 20mph zones.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com