'Ridiculous' delay to speed awareness courses launch six years after Scottish Government backing

Police Scotland has admitted there is still no timescale for introducing re-education classes for speeders as an alternative to penalties, six years after they gained the support of ministers.

Drivers caught speeding up to around 10 per cent above the limit in England and Wales are offered speed awareness courses. Picture: Andrew Parsons/PA

Millions of motorists have paid the equivalent of their fines to enroll on courses in England and Wales instead of penalty points being added to licences.

However, motoring groups reacted with exasperation at the lack of progress north of the Border.

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A year ago, Holyrood public petitions committee convener Johann Lamont expressed frustration that “something that seems quite straightforward has taken such a long time” after it considering a petition calling for the courses since 2016.

The committee agreed to wind up the petition because it accepted there was a commitment to their introduction, but hoped the “operational and financial assessments” required “will be done at pace rather than be left to lie”.

The police has been developing plans with the Crown Office, which agreed to the courses in principle two years ago.

But the force said it was unable to say when they would be introduced.

Chief Superintendent Garry McEwan said: “A multi-agency group has been established to examine the logistical and operational framework of offering any motorists caught speeding the opportunity to enrol in a speed awareness course.

"Further agreements in relation to the parameters of the scheme must be finalised.

“Following the completion of the new IT system pilot in Tayside, our joint focus will be considering next steps including any procurement requirements.”

Neil Greig, the Scotland-based policy and research director of the IAM RoadSmart motoring group, said: “It’s ridiculous that it is taking so long after all the reports and working parties that were supposed to be looking at it.

“There is a perfectly acceptable model running in England that is offering courses to over a million drivers a year.

"The research is also clear that those who take courses are less likely to re-offend."

AA president Edmund King said: “Speed awareness courses have been successful south of the border for many years, so one has to question why progress has been so slow in Scotland.”

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The courses are offered to drivers caught marginally above the limit.

They generally run for drivers caught at up to 10 per cent above the limit plus 9mph – such as up to 42mph in a 30mph limit or 86mph in a 70mph limit.

While the motorists still have to pay the equivalent of their fine, the incentive is not having penalty points added to their licences, which often lead to their insurance premiums being increased.

Participants are not required to “pass” the course as it does not involve a test.

They are simply required to "complete the course in a satisfactory way" which means making “a positive contribution to the course by participating fully”.

The course offered by Cumbria Constabulary is described as “a chance to look at some habits that you might have developed, discuss them with others in a relaxed atmosphere and to explore some good driving tips with an experienced trainer.

“It gives drivers and riders essential advice to help them change their on-road behaviour and reduce reoffending.

“Motorists will develop their knowledge of speed limits, recognise the negative consequences of speeding, understand the benefits of complying with speed limits and be motivated to drive or ride at a safe speed.”

Lesley Jessiman, a Perthshire-based writer who chose to pay £100 for a course in Carlisle after being caught speeding twice on a trip to Northamptonshire, said: “We weren’t made to feel like speed pariahs and rather than being a punishment it was quite enlightening.

“I gained a new awareness of the dangers of speeding in town, and a timely reminder about braking distances and the sometimes fatal difference a few mph can make.”

Fraser Mackenzie, an energy industry development director in Cromarty, who took a course in North Wales, where he was caught speeding, said: “It was really interesting, wasn’t patronising and had a lot of useful driving-related pointers.

"It probably did slow down my in-town driving in particular.”

Scottish Conservative justice spokesperson Liam Kerr said: "When we first called for speed awareness courses, the SNP said they supported the idea.

"Yet we now discover that after six years there has been virtually no progress.

"This is a missed opportunity as these courses play an important role in road policing elsewhere in the UK.”

Mid-Scotland and Fife Labour MSP and public petitions committee member Alex Rowley, who expressed concern at the slow progress in 2019, said courses aimed at young people had been very successful.

He said: “The work of those who run the speed awareness programmes for young people is just amazing and has a real impact on them.

“I know there was a marked decrease in accidents involving young people where these classes were being run.

"This shows that taking preventative steps with a little investment does save lives, and in the long term is much more cost effective as it saves the money associated with accidents.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Lord Advocate has agreed in principle to the introduction of road traffic diversionary courses, including speed awareness.

"A multi-agency group is considering how alternatives such as these could work and will report to the Lord Advocate and the Chief Constable in due course.”

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