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Scottish Parliament to debate 'strict liability' civil law protections for cyclists

Vulnerable road users could gain new protections in Scotland under 'strict liability' law...

The Scottish Parliament will be asked to consider a change in the law to give cyclists and pedestrians extra protection under ‘strict liability’ laws this week.

On Tuesday, MSPs will debate a motion stating that the level of cyclists being killed on Scottish roads is ‘unacceptably high’ and that motorists should be presumed at fault in the event of a collision, unless they could prove otherwise.

The legislation would bring Scotland in line with many other European countries that already have similar laws.
The motion, proposed by Alison Johnstone of the Scottish Green Party, has already achieved cross-party support.

It reads:

That the Parliament believes that the number of fatalities and injuries to pedestrians and cyclists on Scotland's roads, including in the Lothian region, is unacceptably high; recognises that the Scottish Government has funded a number of national cycle safety initiatives; notes that versions of a strict liability rule exist in the civil law of many European countries; notes that a number of walking and cycling organisations support the introduction of such a law in Scotland; understands that a petition by Cycle Law Scotland on this topic has secured nearly 5,000 signatures; considers that a stricter liability rule could have positive benefits for the safety of more vulnerable road users as part of a package of measures, and would welcome further debate on this proposal.

Ms Johnstone told STV: "The number of fatalities and injuries to pedestrians and cyclists on Scotland's roads is unacceptably high. Versions of a strict liability rule exist in the civil law of many European countries and it could make a difference here as part of a package of measures.

"It is heartening to see MSPs from all parties agreeing that it deserves debate."

She added: "To date the Scottish Government has dismissed the suggestion of looking at the idea; hopefully Tuesday's debate will persuade ministers to think again."

Earlier this year we reported the news that a firm of solicitors in Scotland had launched a campaign to have the country’s civil law changed.

The Road Share campaign, devised by Cycle Law Scotland, is backed by organisations including CTC Scotland, Pedal On Parliament and Lothian cycle campaign group Spokes, among others.

A connected petition has over 5,000 signatures in support of a change in the law.

Under such a system - more accurately termed 'presumed liability,' although 'strict liability is the one used in the campaign - a hierarchy is established that places a presumption of liability that favours the more vulnerable road user – for example, where a cyclist has been struck by a car, the motorist is presumed to be liable, unless they can prove that the cyclist was at fault. The system only applies to civil cases, not criminal ones.

The firm says that introducing the system it proposes would meant that victims would receive compensation more quickly, the burden on the courts would be reduced, and road users’ attitudes would change, with a consequent improvement in safety.

Edinburgh-based Cycle Law Scotland says that the UK is one of just five of the 27 European Union member states – the others are Cyprus, Ireland, Malta and Romania – where in such cases there is no ‘strict liability.’

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