Reacting to the news that the Scottish Green Party have launched plans for a new law to make 20mph the default speed limit in built up areas, Friends of the Earth’s Air Pollution Campaigner Emilia Hanna, said:

“Driving at 20mph means safer roads, cleaner air and reduced emissions from traffic. The proposal is an important step towards helping Scotland’s children breathe clean air.

“There are huge air quality and public health gains to be made from 20mph speed limits. Research shows that 20mph limits result in fewer accident rates and lower traffic levels. Crucially, 20mph limits will also tackle a key barrier to cycling which is fear of fast, dangerous vehicles.

“Children growing up in our town and cities should be able to feel safe to walk, cycle, and play in their neighbourhoods, and slowing the traffic to 20mph is just the way to help achieve friendlier, safer, and cleaner neighbourhoods.

“If you want cleaner air and safer streets, you should back this plan.

“Air pollution in Scotland remains a public health crisis, and has been linked to cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and around 2500 early deaths every year. Levels of air pollution remain dangerously high in all of our major cities.

“While 20mph speed limits are a welcome step in tackling air pollution, much more needs to be done. The Scottish Government must also fund a network of Low Emission Zones in each of our major cities in Scotland, it must tackle the dwindling bus sector head on through re-regulation and it must invest in safe walking and cycling routes.”

Currently, the default speed limit is 30mph in built up areas, but local authorities can embark on a cumbersome process to change the limit to 20mph zones. In Edinburgh, where the majority of streets now have 20mph speed limits, the process took 5 years. However, Scottish Government policy favours 20mph limits in built up areas.

Friends of the Earth Scotland have made it easy for people to respond to the consultation and to support this proposal. Just click here to take action now


[1] For information on how 20mph speed limits contribute to cleaner air: http://www.20splenty.org/emission_reductions

[2] The World Health Organization last week called for for 30km/h (20mph) limits as best practice where motorised traffic mixes with pedestrians and cyclists: WHO – Managing Speed (May 2017) http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/publications/road_traffic/managing-speed/en/

[3] There are a total of 38 Pollution Zones in Scottish Cities where safety standards for air quality are regularly broken or at risk of being broken: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/most-polluted-streets

[4] Health impacts of air pollution:

– Friends of the Earth Scotland estimate that 2500 people die early each year from air pollution in Scotland alone: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/RCP-Report

Air pollution, at levels seen on Scottish streets, has been linked with :

– Respiratory illness including asthma and COPD

– Heart attacks and strokes

– Low birthweight and delayed development in babies whose mothers have been exposed

– Poor lung development in children

– Dementia

– Children, the elderly, people with pre-existing health conditions, and sick are disproportionately affected by air pollution.

– (for more, see the Royal College of Physicians’ 2016 report, “Every Breath we Take: The lifelong impact of air pollution”: https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelo…)

[5] Friends of the Earth Scotland is

* Scotland's leading environmental campaigning organisation

* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland

* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.