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Debunked: No, Scotland is not reducing motorway speed limits to 30mph due to climate change

Misleading headlines in British tabloids, as well as tweets from an account known for misinformation, spread the claim.

REPORTS ABOUT EFFORTS to improve air quality in Scotland have been twisted to claim that they plan to tackle climate change by limiting cars to 30-mile-per-hour speeds on motorways.

The claims went viral on social media via the Twitter account of one ‘PeterSweden’, who wrote: “In Scotland they now want to reduce the speed limit on parts of the motorway to only 30mph because climate change. We are heading towards clown world.”

However, the claim that Scotland is reducing motorway speed limits to 3o miles per house due to climate change is false.

The claim stems from a misrepresentation of a proposal aimed at improving the quality of life and reducing air pollution in Glasgow City. The idea of a 30mph pilot zone wasn’t included in the motion passed by Glasgow City Council.

Newspapers such as the Scottish Daily Express, reported: “‘Mad’ Green plan for 30mph speed limit on Scotland’s busiest motorway is PASSED by Glasgow council.”

The Scottish Sun said: “Busy section of motorway set for 30mph limit under major shake-up plans.”

These came after the council sought to investigate ways to lower air and noise pollution on the M8 motorway which passes through the centre of the city, including possibly downgrading it to a boulevard or an avenue.

Climate change was never cited as the primary justification at any stage in the process, including in a petition which called for the motion to be debated in Parliament, in the description of the initial (unamended) motion in the council’s agenda, and in the eventual motion that was passed.

The petition, which had been tweeted out by Councillor Christy Mearns, who submitted the motion, called on the Scottish Parliament to investigate options for removing and reducing the impact of the M8 motorway as it passes through central Glasgow.

At no point did it make reference to a 30mph limit, nor did it mention climate change.

The original motion submitted by Councillor Christy Mearns did mention “a 6-month trial of 30mph speed limits on city centre sections of the M8”, though this version of the motion was not passed by the council, and the version that did pass had this phrase removed.

Both the original and the amended versions of the motion note that “transport is Scotland’s biggest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions; that car and van use accounts for over half of these emissions; that uncontrolled access to roads creates more vehicle traffic through induced demand.”

However, this phrase appears in the motion only after a list of “negative impacts on quality of life for communities across Glasgow […] including ongoing physical barriers, unattractive and unsafe routes for walking, wheeling and cycling, and increased noise and air pollution.”

Councillor Mearns, who introduced the motion, described PeterSweden’s characterisation as being “incorrect”.

She explained that the motion initially sought to ask Scotland’s national transport agency to introduce a pilot that could help deal with pollution on one of the main roads through Glasgow.

“As part of the motion, I requested Transport Scotland’s consideration of a 30mph pilot zone on the central sections of the M8, in order to take immediate action and explore options to address air and noise pollution,” she told The Journal.

“Although the motion was agreed on a cross-party basis, it was adjusted from my original text as a result, so the wording on the speed limit was amended and the 30mph reference was removed.”

It should also be noted that the motion was not just passed by Green Party councillors — 80 of Glasgow’s 85 Councillor’s voted in favour of the motion.  

Scottish National Party councillor Angus Millar, who supported the motion, told The Journal, “The Council’s (cross party) position is to engage with the Scottish Government to explore actions over the short, medium and long term to mitigate the impact of the M8 on the city centre.”

“For clarity, Glasgow City Council has made no proposal for a 30mph speed limit on the M8,” Millar said.

“The reference to 30mph was contained in a motion submitted by the Council’s Green Group, but this was subsequently withdrawn by agreement in favour of an adjusted composite motion between the Green and SNP group which was debated and approved at the meeting.”

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