Safety fears over speed patrol volunteer scheme

Controversial plans to let residents patrol city streets with speed guns risk sparking conflict between the volunteers and motorists, a city MSP claimed today.

Jim Eadie, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Southern, criticised the community speed watch proposal, included in the Liberal Democrat manifesto for next month’s council elections, as “half-baked”.

He said the plan to train and equip volunteers to go out on the streets in high-visibility vests carrying speed guns could have unintended consequences.

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“It could be putting volunteers at risk in terms of their own safety. It could bring about conflict between volunteers and motorists,” he said.

“And it could prove detrimental to community spirit. The idea of people snooping on their fellow citizens could be counter-productive.”

However, SNP council group leader Steve Cardownie was more sympathetic to the idea, which is based on similar schemes in England. He said proper training for the volunteers would be essential. “We would have to make sure the volunteers didn’t cause more accidents than they prevented.”

But he said the idea was worthy of consideration, adding: “If there is evidence to suggest these schemes have made roads safer, I defy any political party to dismiss it out of hand.”

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Lib Dem transport convener Gordon Mackenzie defended the plan, saying a trial in Fife had been a success and led to a reduction in average speeds.

He said: “I don’t know if Jim Eadie is suggesting people in Edinburgh are more likely to come to blows than people in Fife.”

Labour’s transport spokeswoman on the council, Lesley Hinds, was also critical of the Lib Dem proposal. She said: “The danger is this will raise people’s expectations that something will happen, but the only way you will make things change is by the police being there or speed cameras going in.”

The Tories’ Allan Jackson said he saw a “huge number of problems” with the plan.

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“My concern would be how we select people and vet them. We might have 100 volunteers in one area and none in another. Anything that reduces speeding and prevents accidents should be looked at, but I think there are a lot of flaws in this one.”

Nick Stroud, secretary of Portobello Community Council, said: “The idea sounds very ‘vigilante’ to me. We have authorities who should be taking care of these sort of things.

“If you have a problem with speeding I would have thought it would be best to report it to the police so that they can come down with their speed guns, not have residents deal with it.”