Edinburgh’s 20mph speed limit: Council leader Adam McVey is the one who should be apologising – John McLellan

John McLellan hits back at Edinburgh council leader Adam McVey’s suggestion that the Conservative group on the council should apologise over its stance on the 20mph speed limit.

Wednesday, 16th October 2019, 5:00 pm
The 20mph mascot 'The Reducer' at Johnston Terrace (Picture: Scott Louden)

Summoning his inner David Brent, Edinburgh’s SNP leader Adam McVey claimed this week that the £2.9m spent on the city’s 20mph speed limit programme could not have been spent on anything else. Fact.

“The vast majority of the money invested in the 20mph rollout was specifically allocated to the council in national funding for this project,” he wrote, and called on the Conservatives to apologise for “the loss of more than £2m of additional funding for Edinburgh had their position succeeded.”

Well I’m certainly sorry; sorry that the leader has had to resort to such sophistry to defend his administration, sorry that in last week’s committee debate he accused those who challenged the council’s assumptions of lying (repeatedly) and sorry for anyone who believes him.

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Adam McVey wants the Conservatives to apologise, John McLellan says Adam McVey should (Picture: Ian Georgeson)

First of all the cost: last week’s report to the Transport & Environment committee shows the final cost to have been £2.96m, compared to an original estimate of £2.2m when the funding details were presented to the committee in March 2015.

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Other schemes possible

That report said: “The implementation cost of the project to the council is estimated to be £1.140m from existing budgets over three financial years. This includes £465k from the Transport Capital budget and £675k from Cycling, Walking, Safer Streets (CWSS) funding which is ring-fenced funding received annually from Scottish Government.”

According to last week’s report, the council “only” spent £393k from the capital budget, and therefore £1.068m of the budget was money it could have used on any traffic scheme it wished.

And the rest of it? “£1.080m is potentially available through existing external match funding for this type of project from Sustrans and the Scottish Government,” said the 2015 report.

Note the phrase “this type of project”, a clear indication that funds were not just available for this specific project but for other schemes which might have met the criteria. Money might well have been made available for a different scheme, but we’ll never know because the administration only applied for the scheme it wanted.

Directly or indirectly, the shortfall was almost entirely covered by the Scottish Government or its agents, primarily £1.349m from the Government-funded Sustrans Community Links scheme and a further £1m from the Government’s Cycling Walking and Safer Streets programme, again money which did not have to be spent on a blanket 20mph speed limit.

So back to Cllr McVey: “I’ve read comments claiming many will still think the cost of the project should have been spent on other road safety measures that could have been delivered. While I understand why some people might think that way, I’m afraid it ignores the facts.”

Party political attacks

Here is a fact. At last week’s meeting Cllr McVey suggested £2.5m of the 20mph budget could not have been spent on anything else. He has tried to convey the impression that it was either this scheme or nothing yet provides not a shred of evidence to support his assertions and relies as usual on hyperbolic party political attacks in a vain attempt to hide the truth that the effectiveness of this policy is far from proven.

So in case anyone has missed it, here are some facts about the 20mph speed limit policy:

1, It has produced an average reduction in speed of 1.3mph, less than half walking pace.

2, The number of accidents in Scotland fell by 14 per cent at the same time.

3, It was a third over the 2015 budget estimate.

4, The council’s own report says “more data is needed before firm conclusions can be attributed to the 20mph limit”.

5, Even Cllr McVey’s own figures show the Conservatives couldn’t have lost the council over £2m.

Yet Cllr McVey says the Conservative group should apologise for misleading the public. Really? Who is misleading who? And who has called those who question the policy liars? It’s Cllr McVey who should be apologising.

‘Urban creep’

This week’s report that ‘urban creep’ was responsible for the loss of green space in Edinburgh could signal a creep of authorities into what people can do with their property.

The study blamed extensions, patios and driveways for much of the loss. The Greens are already getting excited and it’s only a matter of time before demands for further limits on domestic development are made. You read it here first.

Edinburgh’s new concert hall plan in trouble?

The council’s defence of its decision to overlook its own policies to grant planning permission for the Dunard Concert Hall on St Andrew Square is apparently not faring well at the Court of Session.

But I hear the Scottish Government might not contest the city council’s application for a judicial review of its decision to grant a planning permission extension to the £500m Granton Marina development.

The marina developers have enlisted the services of John Campbell QC, who led the appeal by Royal High School developer Urbanist Hotels against the rejection of its controversial scheme, a decision which is still awaited.