20mph zones would not be priority for police, MSPs told

Policing 20mph zones will not be a priority for Police Scotland if Holyrood passes new legislation to curb the speed limit in built-up areas, a senior officer has told MSPs.

Chief Superintendent Stewart Carle said if a Bill to reduce the speed limit on residential roads is approved, officers would enforce it.

But he also told MSPs considering the proposal that “20mph zones will not be a priority because the majority of casualties are on faster speed roads”.

Mr Carle, divisional commander in the force’s road policing unit, said officers will “continue to focus finite resources on those areas”.

Green MSP Mark Ruskell wants to change the law to reduce the speed limit in residential streets and built-up areas, and has introduced a Member’s Bill at Holyrood.

However Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said there are a number of “challenges” with the Restricted Roads (20mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill.

The Scottish Government supports 20mph zones “where there is a good evidence base for them to be introduced”, Mr Matheson said.

The Bill would cut the limit on restricted routes – those with street lighting which are not classed as either A or B roads.

Mr Matheson said: “We don’t know the numbers of restricted roads in Scotland, there are some restricted roads actually you wouldn’t want to have as 20mph zones, there are roads which are not restricted you would possibly want to have as 20mph roads as well.

“This is a Bill that is intended to apply not to a town or a city, but to a country. And we are in a situation where our local authorities don’t have the information around restricted roads.

“There are thousands of restricted roads in Scotland, but because most of it was done on paperwork over many, many decades, it would be a massive undertaking for local authorities to go through in order to collate all that information and identify that information.”

He also insisted it is not known how much it would cost to introduce the legislation – suggesting the indicated financial impact on councils of £21 million to £22 million could be an underestimate of the true figure.

The Transport Secretary want on to stress that there there is no funding in his budget to meet the costs associated with cutting the speed limit – such as replacing existing signs.

He told the committee: “Any financial support we would have to give to local authorities – and I recognise we would have to give them financial support to assist them with this matter – would have to come out of existing budget allocations.”

Speaking after the committee meeting, Mr Ruskell said: “The evidence is clear: introducing a 20mph limit in residential areas across Scotland would save lives.

“The Scottish Government must now back my Bill if it’s serious about saving children’s lives.”

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