Campaigners today (Thursday 13th June) lambasted MSPs as the Scottish Parliament voted down the ‘Safer Streets’ bill, which would have reduced the default speed limit from 30mph to 20mph. The Private Members Bill from Mark Ruskell MSP was not supported by the Scottish Government, and received 26 votes in favour, 83 against, with 4 abstentions. Labour & Green MSPs backed the proposal with SNP, Conservatives and Lib Dems against.

The Bill was supported by environmental activists, transport groups and public safety campaigners.

Gavin Thomson, Air Pollution Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland said,

“The defeat of this Bill is a damning indictment of a Parliament that pays lip service to the need for a reduction in car use, but refuses to even pass a modest, popular measure to protect pedestrians’ lives”.

“This week we learned Scotland missed its climate targets again, with road transport the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Scotland urgently needs to end the dominance of cars and make it easier and safer for people to walk and cycle short everyday journeys. In light of the First Minister’s declaration of a Climate Emergency, and the ever-growing climate pollution from our roads, this proposal would have begun to fix the imbalance between all road users.

“This Bill would have saved lives, and reduced the number of serious accidents. The Bill would have reduced air pollution, by making traffic flow more smoothly. It would have increased rates of walking and cycling, while reducing health inequalities.

“Children growing up in our towns and cities should be able to feel safe to walk, cycle, and play in their neighbourhoods. Making drivers slow to 20mph can help to achieve friendlier, safer, and cleaner streets that will benefit everyone else using the road. Surveys have shown the Scottish public very much supports 20mph speed limits, and the fight for safer streets will continue”.


1. Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell introduced his “Safer Streets” Private Member’s Bill in the Scottish Parliament in September 2018.
The Bill was scrutinised by the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, a majority of which did not support the Bill. John Mason MSP, John Finnie MSP, and Colin Smyth MSP dissented. https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/109191.aspx

2. Children in Scotland’s poorest areas nearly 3 times more likely to be injured by road traffic than those in the richest. https://www.sustrans.org.uk/news/children-scotlands-poorest-areas-nearly-3-times-more-likely-be-injured-road-traffic-those

3. On Tuesday 11th June, it was revealed that Scotland had missed climate change targets. Road transport emitted more greenhouse gases than any other sector. Transport emissions have increased by 2.2% between 2016 and 2017, and by 0.4% from 1990 to 2017. https://www.gov.scot/publications/scottish-greenhouse-gas-emissions-2017/pages/5/

4. On Tuesday 11th June, a demonstration was held outside the entrance to the Scottish Parliament. Sixty chairs were set out, each one symbolising a life that would have been saved had this bill been in place for the twenty years since the Parliament first sat.
This is based on the Glasgow Centre for Population Health’s estimate that 3-5 lives would be saved each year if the bill was implemented. https://www.gcph.co.uk/assets/0000/6964/Policy_briefing_20mph.pdf 

5. Polling released in March 2019, carried out on behalf of the Scottish Greens, revealed that speed limits of 20mph had huge public support, from 65% support in 2017 to 72% supportive. https://foe.scot/press-release/public-support-safer-street-20mph/

6. 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.