Conservatives gear up for manifesto pledge to scrap 20mph limit

THE Capital's Conservatives may seek to scrap the 20mph speed limit that was rolled out last week.

Monday, 8th August 2016, 8:16 am
Updated Monday, 8th August 2016, 9:18 am
The new speed limit in Balerno. Picture: Jon Savage

Councillor Nick Cook said his party could include a pledge to repeal the measures as part of their election manifesto.

He made the comments a week after the £2.22 million scheme’s first phase was launched across the city centre and rural areas in west Edinburgh.

The project – the first of its kind in Scotland – will eventually cover 80 per cent of the city’s streets.

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Cllr Cook said: “I am pulling together a range of policy positions as part of the 2017 manifesto.

“We are fully exploring the possibility of repealing the rollout depending on how much it would cost and if it would be in the interests of taxpayers. I would rather see the money reinvested in road safety. This would be considered as part of a wider transport offering.”

The Tories have been critical of the 20mph zones from the outset amid claims the scheme is too costly and would increase pollution and congestion.

However, Cllr Cook stressed the party still supported using 20mph limits on a “targeted basis” in accident blackspots or outside schools.

Stuart Hay, director of pedestrian campaign group Living Streets Scotland, said the Tory proposals amounted to “political opportunism of the worst kind”.

He said: “All the evidence suggests that, given a chance, Edinburgh will be a safer, more pleasant city. Whilst it’s sad that plans for slower streets are subject to fast and loose politics, we hope common sense will prevail.”

Leading road safety charity IAM RoadSmart said the best way to reduce casualties would be to target areas with high accident rates.

Tim Shallcross, head of technical policy for IAM, said the council should look at various traffic-calming measures, including speed humps, road narrowing and speed-activated sensors.

He said: “20mph limits have their place in the tool box of things the council has to make roads safer.

“Putting them in en masse is not the right approach but nor is removing them en masse.” The proposals were initially met with opposition. However, city-wide consultations have also reported positive feedback.

John Lauder, national director of Sustrans Scotland, said there was “substantial evidence” that slower speeds would ensure streets are safer and more pleasant for everyone, particularly children, older members of the community and disabled people.

He added: “Walking to school will become a safer option for children, which will have a positive effect on their health and wellbeing.

“At the moment 12 per cent of commuting is already made in Edinburgh by people using bicycles, and the 20mph zones will help to encourage yet more people to commute, explore their neighbourhoods and visit local shops either by foot or by bike.”