Nicola Sturgeon says safety of children in our streets is paramount

The crossing patrol on the A82 which has been moved under protest to the foot of Garshake. Pictures by Bill Heaney

By Bill Heaney

Young people are twice as likely to be injured on our roads as was clearly illustrated when a teenager was knocked down on the A82 at the controversial Crosslet crossing in Dumbarton.

Despite that accident, however, West Dunbartonshire Council have persisted mulishly with a plan to take the crossing patrols away from the foot of Argyll Avenue at the timber Houses.

And moved them 200 yards away to operate at a crossing at the bottom of Garshake.

They have so far refused to listen to concerned parents and pupils who marched along the road in protest.

But while the Council drags its feet on this, the Scottish Parliament heard on Thursday that some parts of Scotland have made their streets safer, healthier places.

Edinburgh, where a 20 mph speed limit has been rolled out across the city, is one of them.

In Fife, more lives are being saved and children protected from injury, particularly in low-income areas, as a result of 20 mph speed limits.

Alison Johnstone MSP asked First Minister Nicola Sturgeon if she shared concerns that too many communities are not benefiting “from this small change, which would make a big difference”.

The First Minister said: “Many local authorities already have 20mph speed limits in certain areas and I encourage local authorities to consider having 20mph speed limits where they think it is appropriate.”

West Dunbartonshire Council by their actions at Crosslet do not consider introducing speed limits or taking other action even where there have been public protests about perceived danger to life and limb.

Nicola Sturgeon said: “A member’s bill on the issue is currently being considered by this Parliament. Of course, the Parliament will debate that and the Scottish Government will continue to listen to all the arguments that are made.”

Alison Johnstone, who is a Green Party member, said: “I appreciate the First Minister’s response. The Scottish Government has made brave and important public health interventions in banning smoking in public places and introducing a minimum price for alcohol. Those policies are effective because they apply at a national level, with Government leadership. The piecemeal approach will not deliver what I know both I and the First Minister want, which is for all children to have safe streets.

“The health and safety of our children cannot depend on which part of the country they live in, so will the First Minister join organisations such as NHS Health Scotland and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and back my colleague Mark Ruskell’s Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill—a public health measure that will have the greatest impact where it is most needed?”

Ms Sturgeon said: “I give an assurance that we will listen carefully to the arguments that are made as Mark Ruskell’s bill is discussed and I commend him for raising the issue.

“An issue that we grapple with all the time in Government is getting the balance right between showing national leadership on an issue—which, as Alison Johnstone has said, we have done on a range of public health issues in particular—while respecting the autonomy of local councils, which is something that people across the chamber call for regularly.

It is important that we get the balance right, and paramount importance has to be attached to the safety of children. I commit to listening carefully to the arguments, as I am sure that members across the chamber will do. I hope that the Parliament reaches the right decision on this and gets that balance right.”

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