Road Traffic Regulation Act (RTRA) COVID-19 traffic signs definition: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Information requested

Can you please tell me what part of section 64 of the RTRA 1984 are you making specific reference to that supports the promotion advertising / signage of covid 19 related messages?


Whilst VMSS are “traffic signs” as defined within the terms of section 64 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act (RTRA) 1984. Every sign or signal used by Transport Scotland must either be prescribed in the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) 2002 or approved for use by special authorisation. The underlying purpose of the RTRA1984 is the regulation of traffic and equipment placed on a road under the powers contained therein.

Within Section 64 of the RTRA1984, Scottish Ministers have the delegated powers enabling them to authorise legends for use on variable message signs. Within Scotland, special authorisation has been given to Transport Scotland and therefore consent for legends not prescribed in the TSRGD can only be granted by the appropriate Transport Scotland Authorising Officer/s, this special dispensation has enabled COVID messaging to be displayed on the VMS throughout Scotland throughout the pandemic. As traffic volumes increased and travel patterns returned to something more normal, it was vital to retain the use of VMS for the prioritisation of real-time travel information if disruption is predicted or occurs on the road network, with COVID-19 background messages displayed during other times. However as Scotland moves through the route map of the COVID-19 pandemic recovery. Traffic Scotland remains part of the conduit to support with the national messaging and guidance, as such will continue to adapt to the messaging required to support the national objectives through:

  • 1. VMS (background messages)
  • 2. Social Media
  • 3. Website Information
  • 4. Traffic Scotland Radio (Digital Radio Service)

The Traffic Scotland service is continuing to provide real-time traffic and travel information to the travelling public, however in periods where there is no demand for normal operational requirements as detailed below network messaging is being provided only where appropriate to support the national guidance from Scottish Government to aid the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and keep the public safe from the virus.

In the course of normal operations VMS assets are prioritised to alert drivers of:

  • real-time incident alerts
  • weather warnings
  • Police travel advice
  • advance warning of planned events (e.g. roadworks)
  • background road safety messages

We will continue to keep the messaging under review to ensure that it aligns with the national objectives and delivers a consistent approach to our way out of the COVID pandemic.

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The Scottish Government
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