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Highland councillors give 20mph speed limits in Caithness their backing

By Nicola Sinclair, Local Democracy Reporter

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Highland councillors today reiterated their support for 20mph speed limits.
Highland councillors today reiterated their support for 20mph speed limits.

Highland councillors today reiterated their support for 20mph speed limits – but agreed that motorists are largely ignoring the new rules.

Members of the economy committee agreed to explore more options to slow traffic.

This could include traffic calming measures, and a more consistent approach to speed limits in urban areas.

Ultimately though, members said they’re aiming for long term cultural change.

At the heart of the debate was a recognition that sticking up a new sign isn’t enough.

Highland Council is a pilot area for the Scottish Government’s national rollout of 20mph zones. By the summer, 130 towns and villages will move to the slower limit.

But members of the economy committee said motorists in their area are continuing to drive at 30mph – or faster.

“The real issue is enforcement,” said councillor Alasdair Christie. “A 20mph zone in itself is not the answer.”

Several members reported that Police Scotland doesn’t have the resources to enforce the new speed limit. Inverness member Duncan Macpherson claimed the police regard 20mph zones as “unenforceable and unworkable”.

Economy chairman Ken Gowans said the speed limits require a multi-agency approach, adding: “We’re all working towards the same thing.”

Some councillors claim part of the problem is a patchwork approach across areas of Highland. Many communities now have a mix of 30mph main roads and slower zones around built up areas.

“A good law is a simple law,” said Skye councillor Thomas MacLennan. He suggested that the speed limits should be consistently applied.

Council transport officers agreed, reminding the committee the Highland was asked to be an “exemplar” but the current scheme is causing driver confusion.

Councillor Drew Millar argued in support of more traffic calming measures, acknowledging that simple signage is not enough.

To that end, the committee agreed to investigate more actions it can take to improve compliance.

But they recognised this is not an overnight job. “Culture change has to start somewhere,” said councillor Michael Cameron. “This will save lives.”

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