SCOTTISH Government plans for 20-minute neighbourhoods have caused outrage amongst right wingers and conspiracy theorists who claim they are part of an international socialist plot to create dystopian climate lockdowns.

However they are no more than a return to the way Scots used to live, according to experts in urban regeneration.

“It is an old idea but it has a new name and that has captured the attention for good or for ill,” said Euan Leitch, chief executive of Surf, Scotland’s independent regeneration network.

There’s no doubt that some have reacted strongly to the concept, claiming it is part of a conspiracy to curtail personal freedom.

A pilot for a scheme in Oxford, which aimed to ensure people’s basic needs could be met within a short walk from their homes, sparked a demonstration of around 2000 people including the far-right group Patriotic Alternative, actor Laurence Fox, far-right political commentator Katie Hopkins and the 1990s pop group Right Said Fred.

They claim that rather than an attempt to reduce car use and transport emissions, such neighbourhoods will lead to people being forbidden to move from their zones like the population of the fictional world of the Hunger Games where people are confined to their own distinct districts.

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The issue was even raised in the House of Commons with Tory MP Nick Fletcher claiming they were an “international socialist concept” and could “cost us our personal freedoms”.

Some UK conspiracy theorists believe the plans are “un-British” because the idea was promoted by Carlos Moreno, a highly regarded professor at the Pantheon Sorbonne in Paris. The idea gained further traction when Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo used it in her 2020 re-election campaign.

Last month, the Scottish Government launched a consultation on 20-minute neighbourhoods – five minutes longer than the usual “15 minute cities” promoted elsewhere, prompting a few to joke the extra time is necessary because Scots are more unfit.

Leitch said the concept was a very old idea that had been damaged by post-war road systems.

“It is a good idea and not a new one in planning terms, as it is the way we used to live,” he said. “I suppose it is trying to help us be more active by moving away from a planning system which has been driven by the car.”

Leitch said that if 20-minute neighbourhoods meant there would be better provision of public services and shops in the most deprived communities in Scotland it would be “a good thing”.

He said it was also important to make sure the places where people live are properly maintained.

“You need to get some of the basics right by removing litter and removing trip hazards so that it is easier for people to move around. That doesn’t happen for free.”

A report published last week pointed out that Edinburgh is already well served by 20-minute neighbourhoods while, in Glasgow, the council has been trying to encourage people away from motorised transport with a network of “avenues” designed for walking and cycling.

“In theory you could probably bike across half of Glasgow in 20 minutes now, although whether you would want to do that if it is wet is another question,” said Rohinton Emmanuel, professor in sustainable design and construction at Glasgow Caledonian University.

He said 20-minute neighbourhoods have to be part of a wider strategy as transport emissions remain a “real problem”.

His masters students are currently comparing Glasgow with cities in Finland, Spain and Germany and have found that Lahti in Finland, in particular, is well ahead of Scotland in encouraging active travel.

Professor Emmanuel said the lesson was to start small.

“Getting people out the car is the difficulty but once they are out I think they realise that other things are possible. Not everything in Finland is in 20-minute neighbourhoods but they are closer to it than we are.”

The Scottish Government consultation closes on July 20.