Confusion reigns over speed limits

SINCE Alex Salmond recently implored Prime Minister Gordon Brown to devolve further powers to the Scottish Parliament before the UK general election ("SNP gives Brown 'one last chance' to transfer powers", News, 3 January), it would be instructive to know what exactly the First Minister would do with one of the measures in question – setting national speed limits – given that such an exercise would presumably prove controversial.

Precisely which of the national speed limits – namely those pertaining to motorways, dual carriageways and most non-urban roads – do the Nationalists have in mind, and to what extent would they be reduced, since presumably they wouldn't be increasing?

The law on speed limits has become increasingly messy and lacking in clarity as it is, with a significant ostensible increase in micro-management being juxtaposed with highly selective enforcement and even tacit official endorsement of speeding, whether intended or otherwise.

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Yet the Calman Commission claims that a "divergence" in national speed limits within the UK would be "manageable" and that enforcement would not "present particular difficulties", despite the self-evident potential for further confusion.

It would also be interesting to know why the Unionist parties consider it desirable to have different speed limits (not to mention drink-driving limits) – and thus presumably different levels of safety – north and south of the Border.

A related point is Calman's slightly contrived and unconvincing attempt to justify different standards within the UK regarding different aspects of road safety on the basis that some facets of road traffic law are more objectively assessable than others.

This, and the lack of substantive proposals from the Nationalists on speed limits, perhaps underlines that the Unionist rationale for Calman was merely to throw the pro-independence dog a placatory bone.

It now appears that the Nationalists are keen to have something more to chew on for the sake of it, despite initial representations that they had no desire to sup at the Commission's table.

Stuart Winton, Dundee