Scotland's Road Safety Framework

What is the Scottish Government position on 20 mph speed limits?

The Scottish Government is committed to working with local authorities to reduce the speed limit in our towns, cities and villages to 20 mph, where appropriate, by the end of 2025. This will help make these roads safer for all road users. Evidence shows that if you hit a pedestrian at 30 mph, they are seven times more likely to die than at 20 mph.

It is hoped the change will also improve perceptions of road safety, encouraging people to walk, wheel and cycle more, thereby improving health, road safety and promoting active travel, creating more pleasant areas in which to live.



When will 20 mph speed limits be implemented in Scotland?

The Programme for Government commits the Scottish Government to having 20 mph limits on appropriate roads by the end of 2025. Speed limits of 20 mph have been adopted early by Highland council, including the relevant sections of the Trunk Road where appropriate.



Why not follow the Welsh model of adopting a default 20 mph limit?

A Scottish Task Group for 20 mph speed limits was established to set the most effective route for implementation in Scotland. Supporting the 33 road authorities, using a pragmatic approach to delivery will ensure a level of consistency will be applied on appropriate roads and that those limits are both credible and likely to have the best chance of creating real change in road user behaviours from the outset.


Speed limits of 20 mph have already been widely implemented in several councils areas such as Edinburgh, Fife and Scottish Borders.



How will the appropriate roads for a 20 mph speed limit be identified?

A road assessment subgroup was formed, consisting of the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland (SCOTS), a selection of Local Road authorities, the Strategic Road authorities, Police Scotland and Transport Scotland. As experts in their field, they created assessment criteria to ensure a level of consistency was applied when identifying appropriate roads for a speed limit of 20 mph during the assessment.



What are the pre-defined criteria for appropriate 20 mph speed limits?

The pre-defined criteria considers a number of factors such the level of frontage (buildings, houses, shops etc.) and the presence of education and key community facilities nearby; formal walking and cycling routes; key buildings or areas such as a place of worship, sporting facility/ play park, a hospital or health centre. All suggest a greater level of vulnerable road user is expected. Decisions on setting speed limits should also be informed by local knowledge.



How will 20 mph limits be delivered?

A delivery sub group will oversee the implementation of widespread 20 mph speed limits where appropriate by 2025. Where early progress has been made, implementation of the speed limits has been on a temporary basis for a maximum period of 18 months. During this period, the lower speed limit will be monitored and evaluated and a decision made thereafter as to whether the 20mph speed limit is appropriate and should be made permanent (either based on existing extents or potentially modified using additional speed management measures), or removed and the speed limit revert to 30 mph.



Will Trunk Roads be subject to the same 20 mph considerations?

Yes, Transport Scotland is working with local authorities to ensure the trunk roads running through our communities are subject to the same consideration as the adjacent local roads. For example, 20 mph limits have recently been introduced in 20 communities in the Highlands which have Trunk Roads running through them.



Why not leave the speed limit at 30 mph, who will this benefit? 

In 2022, serious road casualties mostly occurred on 30 mph and 60 mph roads. Just over half (51.1%) of road traffic fatalities in cities and towns were pedestrians or pedal cyclists. The majority (54.4%) of serious injuries were also pedestrians and pedal cyclists, whereas just over a third (34.6%) suffered slight injuries.



Will all 30 mph roads be affected?

Not all 30 mph speed limited roads will be affected. Road authorities assessed their individual road networks to identify the 30 mph speed limited roads which were appropriate for a speed limit of 20 mph. These roads will be monitored after implementation and refined if necessary.



How can 20 mph speed limits encourage more active travel?

By increasing people’s perceptions of ‘feeling safe’ and thereby allowing people to feel more comfortable walking or cycling, 20 mph limits, implemented in the right environment, have real potential to encourage more active travel.



Can reducing the speed limit help reduce the number of cars on the road and lead to a positive impact on our carbon footprint?

Cars currently account for almost 40% of transport emissions.  By introducing the new limits, we aim to help people feel safer while walking or cycling, and thereby encourage an increase in active travel. This in turn will support a reduction in the number of vehicles on our roads and the reliance of cars which will also help cut transport emissions.



How does 20 mph tie in with the Safe System approach to road safety delivery, which is seen as international best practice?

The Safe System recognises that people are fragile and make mistakes that can lead to collisions, but it should not lead to death or serious injury. Lowering the speed limit to 20 mph is a great example of the Safe system in action they reduce the risk of collisions occurring and should a collision occur when a driver is driving at 20 mph it reduces the severity of the collision.



Do lower vehicle speeds lead to a reduction in air pollutants?

Vehicle emissions, noise and outdoor air quality varies depending on a number of criteria, including speed and consistency of driving speed, traffic volume, and type of vehicles as well as the location of the road. There is a lot that we can do as individuals, including making less journeys in vehicles and increasing our walking wheeling and cycling, getting more people to travel actively, because it is safer for them to do so, will make a key difference.



Will 20 mph speed limits increase journey times?

An evaluation by the Department for Transport into the effectiveness of sign only 20 mph limits shows that journey times are estimated to have increased by 3% in residential areas and 5% in city centre areas, based on the observed change in median speed (from GPS journey speed data). This adds less than half a minute to a two-mile trip and less than a minute to a five-mile trip.


It is anticipated that any adverse impacts would be minimal. Most appropriate roads for 20 mph will exclude strategic routes, and the roads affected will typically be the start or the end of most journeys (not affecting the main part of the trip).  



Are there any safety benefits from lowering speeds?

There is an established relationship between speed and the risk of being involved in a collision. At higher speeds the time to react to changes in the environment is shorter, and manoeuvrability is smaller, which increases the risk of a collision. Research informs us that lower speeds result in fewer collisions and a reduced severity of injuries; and that casualties are reduced when speeds are lowered.



How can 20 mph speed limits be beneficial to public health and reduce the burden on the national health service?

Reducing speed in our communities will help reduce the number of collisions on Scotland’s roads, and should a collision occur, will help to reduce its severity. This will have a direct impact on the number of people requiring medical attention and the extent of that treatment.

By lowering speeds, reducing the perception of road danger more people can choose to travel actively. Active travel offers improved health outcomes for individuals, improving physical and mental health through increased activity and improved air quality.



What is the Scottish Government doing to enhance speed compliance?

The roads identified as appropriate for a speed limit of 20 mph should be “self-explaining” and “Self-enforcing” to the road user. However, speeds will be monitored and evaluated and where a level of compliance is not being met wider speed management measure will be considered.



To change driving behaviours and gain compliance will there be a requirement for traffic calming measures? 

On those roads where evidence suggests wider speed management measures would be beneficial other measures to manage speeds, improve safety, and encouragement active travel should be considered.



Are Police Scotland carrying out enforcement of 20 mph speed limits?

Enforcement of speed limits is a matter for Police Scotland, which operates independently from Scottish Ministers.