Cost of rolling out 20mph limit across Scotland ‘grossly underestimated’

The First Minister has been urged to support a 20mph speed limit in all residential areas across Scotland. Picture:: Ian Georgeson
The First Minister has been urged to support a 20mph speed limit in all residential areas across Scotland. Picture:: Ian Georgeson
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Plans to cut the speed limit to 20mph in every built-up area in Scotland could be difficult for councils to afford due to the cost of road signs and other infrastructure, MSPs have heard.

Legislation currently working its way through the Scottish Parliament would make 20mph the default speed limit on “restricted roads”, which are mainly urban or residential streets with lighting.

A consultation on the plans attracted 6,585 replies, with 62 per cent of respondents – including transport operators, businesses and individuals – saying they supported the lower limit.

But during an evidence session at Holyrood, MSPs on the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee raised fears that councils would struggle to afford the required infrastructure.

SNP MSP Maureen Watt said the annual cost of the policy in the first two years was estimated to be no more than £10m, but that Aberdeenshire Council said it alone would need to find £500,000.

She said this suggested that the initial cost had been “grossly underestimated”, as if the same was true for each of Scotland’s 32 councils the bill would run to £16m.

Stuart Hay, the director of campaign group Living Streets Scotland, said councils such as Edinburgh and Glasgow that have already rolled out 20mph limits would face much smaller bills.

But he added that for other less well prepared local authorities, the policy would “cost them a lot more money in the short term” and that they may need extra financial support.

“I would say that national government does need to stump up,” he said. “It does need to contribute as this is a national initiative that will deliver national benefits.”

The committee also heard evidence that a 20mph limit would reduce accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists, cut air pollution and improve the flow of traffic.