Law change set to bring rallying back to Scotland after spectator deaths

Handout video grab image issued by the Crown Office of the moment a rally car lost control and left the road at the Jim Clark Rally 2014 in the Scottish Borders
Handout video grab image issued by the Crown Office of the moment a rally car lost control and left the road at the Jim Clark Rally 2014 in the Scottish Borders
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An overhaul of the law surrounding rallying events in Scotland is being proposed in a bid to see a return of iconic events to the country’s roads.

Organisers have struggled to get insurance since three spectators died at the Jim Clark rally in the Borders three years ago after insurance firms refused to provide cover.

The Borders event, which injected £1.2 million into the local economy, has not been held since, along with the Isle of Mull rally due to ongoing issues faced by organisers securing insurance.

The Scottish Government is now seeking to changes the application process surrounding these events to ensure they can make a return to the calendar. It would mean that motorsports bodies are allowed to issue permits to stage such events and also give councils power to close public roads when rallies are being held. They cannot do this under existing laws.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Scotland has a long and proud tradition in the world of motorsports and we recognise the need to balance economic benefits with safety considerations – both for spectators and participants.

“Following the tragic rallying accidents of recent years, Scotland has lost two major events from its sporting calendar and has been unable to host any motorsports on closed public roads. This is detrimental to local economies and something which we are seeking to address. We must be mindful that motorsports can be dangerous and that risk needs to be correctly assessed and managed.

“It is important that the people who understand the sport are put at the heart of this assessment and also to ensure that local knowledge is fully taken into account. That is why the Scottish 
Government is seeking views on a two stage authorisation process which would allow decisions to be taken at a local level – empowering communities to hold events which benefit those locations and beyond.”

It is a criminal offence to stage rallies or motorports events on public roads in Scotland, but special legislation for both the Jim Clark and Mull allowed them to take place. But they have been axed in recent years after three spectators died at the Borders event in 2014 and how insurance firms interpret the provisions of both acts regarding liability.

Iain Provan, his partner Elizabeth Allan, and Len Stern, were killed when a car spun off the course near Swinton during the Jim Clark Rally.

A Fatal Accident Inquiry ruled the deaths could have been avoided if spectators had been clearly banned from standing in the area where the crash took place.

The consultation launched by Transport Scotland yesterday is seeking views on a possible application process, involving motorsports governing bodies and local authorities, to allow motorsport events to take place on closed public roads in Scotland.

newsen@edinburghnews.com