20mph – Help us campaign for the new Urban Default Speed Limit Bill

Mark Ruskell launched his Safer Streets Bill in 2017 and it is now making its way through the Scottish Parliament as the Restricted Roads (20mph Limt)(Scotland) Bill. The full details may be seen here.

The Bill has now moved to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee for scrutiny and this committee has launched its own consultation, which closes on 28 January. There is information about the bill and a link to the committee’s survey here.

You can help us support this bill by doing two things – respond to this survey and contact to your MSP. We pulled together some help for you to do those things below.


The link again is here.

We need a 20mph limit. The reasons for a 20mph default speed limit include:

  1. Consistency from town to town across Scotland. Drivers will expect to drive at 20 not 30mph unless there is signage that allows them to drive at speeds in excess of 20.
  2. Consistency within towns. Drivers will expect to drive at 20mph unless there is signage that allows them to drive at speeds in excess of this. Currently there is a lack of consistency, with some proactive communities aiming to protect their schools and their local residential areas with a 20mph limit. There is an increasing number of city areas where local authorities are imposing a 20mph limit to make places more people-friendly and to encourage active travel.
  3. Reduction in signage. As urban speeds go up and down there is signage at each change in speed and this will be reduced if the default speed is 20mph. Local communities will see the benefits of a lower speed limit and will resist moves to increase a limit to 30mph.
  4. Reduction in pollution. As motor traffic moves at a lower, but importantly, more consistent speed, vehicle emissions will be reduced as there is less requirement to accelerate away from traffic lights. See link, (a), below
  5. Reduced danger to pedestrians. It is widely recognised that a vehicle travelling at 20mph is less likely to kill or seriously injure a pedestrian with whom it collides, than if it is travelling at 30mph or more.
  6. An improved environment for cycling. The speed differential between a motor vehicle and a bicycle is reduced from a factor of 3 or 4 to a factor of 2 or less. Bicycles can regularly travel at 10-12mph and more people will feel confident of cycling on road alongside motor traffic moving at no more than 20mph.
  7. A reduction in motor traffic within towns. Drivers will tend to use the outer ring roads where speed limits are 30mph or higher rather than a more direct route through an urban centre.
  8. A reduction in congestion. This would come as more drivers avoid urban centres and those who do travel within urban areas move at a more consistent speed, with less need to overtake etc.
  9. Improved compliance, monitoring and enforcement of the speed limit. A consistent speed limit of 20mph, rather than one that changes across an urban area, will encourage compliance by drivers and ease any monitoring and compliance to be done by the authorities. See note (b) below.
  10. Reduction in the requirement for “traffic calming”. Local authorities are finding it necessary to install traffic calming measures, usually speed tables or cushions, to reduce motor traffic speeds to no more than 20mph. This expensive practice will not be so regularly required with a default speed of 20mph (Note that traffic calming can cost in the region of £60k vs £1k per km for speed limit signage).

(a) – see point 4 above – this link from a contribution to the Guardian newspaper provides interesting reading, including this quote:

Research in Germany has shown that the greater the speed of vehicles in built-up areas, the higher is the incidence of acceleration, deceleration, and braking, all of which increase air pollution. German research indicates that traffic calming reduces idle times by 15%, gear changing by 12%, brake use by 14%, and gasoline use by 12% (Newman and Kenworthy 1992, 39–40). This slower and calmer style of driving reduces emissions, as demonstrated by an evaluation in Buxtehude, Germany. Table E-1 shows the relative change in emissions and fuel use when the speed limit is cut from 50kmh (31mph) to 30kmh (19mph) for two different driving styles. Even aggressive driving under the slower speed limit produces lower emissions (but higher fuel use) than under the higher speed limit, although calm driving produces greater reductions for most emissions and net fuel savings (Newman and Kenworthy 1992, 39 –40).”

The AA have carried out tests, see this article, to support a view that lower speed limits raise fuel consumption and hence pollution, although there is no mention of the reduced acceleration and braking when driving at a steady speed of 20mph. However the overriding concerns should be to reduce the severity of accidents and to encourage the switch to active travel. This article, “Speed reduction methods to promote road safety and save lives” gives a good summary of what can be done.

(b) – see point 9 above – Enforcement is an issue, as it is with ALL speed limits, from 20 – 70, but, like smoking and drink driving, the public mood must change. However, some enforcement will be needed and, given the other benefits – fewer and less-severe accidents, for example, Police Scotland and/or our Local Authorities should be funded accordingly.


It is really important that we visit or write to our MSP to show our support for the 20mph Bill,  particularly those of us with MSPs on the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

Here is our official response and we also have a template letter here  with a pdf of that  too, that you might want to work from if you need some help getting started.

For the west of Scotland, the essential MSPs to contact are:

John Mason (Shettleston) john.mason.msp@parliament.scot

Richard Lyle (Uddingston & Bellshill) richard.lyle.msp@parliament.scot

Jamie Greene (West of Scotland Region) jamie.greene.msp@parliament.scot

As the bill progresses Cabinet Ministers will have the final say, so it’s important, particularly if your MSP is a Cabinet Minister that you meet them or email them. In the West of Scotland these people are:

Nicola Sturgeon (Glasgow Southside) nicola.sturgeon.msp@parliament.scot

Humza Yousaf (Glasgow Region) humza.yousaf.msp@parliament.scot

Derek Mackay (Renfrewshire North & West) derek.mackay.msp@parliament.scot

Aileen Campbell (Clydesdale) aileen.campbell.msp@parliament.scot

In addition to all the points in favour of the Bill listed above, here is a reminder of the MSP briefing that Mark Ruskell sent to us:  SaferStreetsMSPbrief

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