THE SCOTTISH Government must act to make cycling safer by passing legislation to lower the speed limit to 20mph in residential streets, campaigners have claimed.

The renewed calls to reduce speeds from 30 to 20mph – suggestions first made in a Bill presented to the Scottish Parliament by Mark Ruskell MSP last September – come after the death of a cyclist in Glasgow last Wednesday. Four cyclists have already been killed on Scotland’s roads this year.

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Two weeks ago the Welsh government confirmed 20mph should be the default speed limit for residential areas, and on Friday the UK’s first 15mph zone was announced in central London.

However earlier this month Transport Minister Michael Matheson wrote to cycling charities claiming the decision should be left up to local authorities. Campaigners said a rethink was essential in order to make cycling and walker safer.

Currently local authorities can use bylaws to lower speed limits. In 2016 Edinburgh City Council introduced a 20mph limit in the city centre and the west of the city, gradually expanding it to cover 80% of city streets.

However, Professor Chris Oliver, former orthopaedic trauma surgeon and campaigner for Spokes – a Lothian-based cycling campaign – argued that process was needlessly bureaucratic, stopping other local authorities following suit. He said there was clear evidence that lowering the speed limit could save lives and urged the Government to act.

“The speed limit is a key issue,” he said. “What you have seen in Edinburgh is that since the 20mph has been introduced in Edinburgh the number of injuries has been falling quite dramatically. I don’t understand how Michael Matheson can ignore that. It needs to have a national roll-out. Wales has done it and so too can Scotland.”

Ruskell, who is MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said the Scottish Government was increasingly “out of step” with its opposition to legislating for a safer speed limit. “It is internationally recognised as the safe urban limit and is the foundation for making streets safer to walk and cycle, yet the Scottish Government approach to a piecemeal roll out of 20mph zones has led to a postcode lottery across Scotland,” he added.

“A child growing up in Michael Matheson’s constituency in Falkirk, where there are no permanent 20mph zones, deserves the same level of protection as a child growing up in Edinburgh where nearly every residential street has a 20mph limit.

“The First Minister has said that all policies are up for review in light of the climate emergency, but if the Scottish Government cannot even make a simple change that will save lives, money and climate emissions then what hope can we have that this government is bold enough to make the harder choices?”

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents claims if average speeds reduced by just one mph, the accident rate would fall by about 5%.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “We share the view that 20mph speed limits are a good idea when implemented in the right environment. However we believe, and it is shared with many local authorities, that more evidence and further consideration needs to be given to the impact and consequences of a nationwide default 20 mph limit, including an assessment of Scotland’s road network, before the measure proposed in the Bill can be fully supported.”