The Smith Commission on further devolution to Scotland has recommended that speed limits and traffic signs should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
On 27 November the Commission on further devolution to Scotland (known as the “Smith Commission” after its Chairman, Lord Smith) published the unanimous report of its 11 members (two from each main Scottish political party, plus Lord Smith).
Most attention has been focused on the Commission’s recommendations on devolving income tax and some welfare benefits, but paragraph 66 of the Report states:
“Remaining powers to change speed limits will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Powers over all road traffic signs in Scotland will also be devolved.”
Assuming that these recommendations are implemented in full, this should mean that a future Scottish Government could decide to convert traffic signs and speed limits to metres, kilometres and km/h even if the rest of the UK clings to obsolete imperial measures. This is much as recommended by the UK Metric Association in its submission to the Smith Commission.
However, the Report makes no specific mention of Weights and Measures powers generally – although paragraph 72 recommends that “Consumer advocacy and advice will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.”
A slight doubt therefore remains over the power to convert speed limits and traffic signs. It has been found in the past that although the Northern Ireland devolved Government has control over traffic signs, legal advice has been obtained that Weights and Measures law trumps traffic signs, and therefore the NI Assembly cannot match its southern neighbour and convert to km/h speed limits without UK consent. That said, and given the current mood of Scottish voters, it is inconceivable that a future UK Government would dare to veto a Scottish decision to modernise its road signs.
(See also MetricViews article at http://metricviews.org.uk/2014/11/devolve-weights-and-measures-says-pro-metric-group/