A BBC Scotland documentary aired yesterday highlighted the huge public health impacts of our car usage showing how air pollution leads to heart problems and at least 2,000 early deaths. Friends of the Earth Scotland are calling on the Finance Secretary to significantly increase the spending on active travel in next year’s budget. This funding is necessary in order to tackle the dangerously high levels of air pollution which persist across many parts of Scotland.
Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland said “Traffic related air pollution continues to be a public health crisis in Scotland, increasing the risk of asthma attacks, strokes, heart attacks, and cancers. Tonight’s BBC documentary shows just how damaging cars are to our health and confirm air pollution as one of the biggest silent killers in Scotland.
“Last year the Scottish Government was ordered by the UK Supreme Court to increase its efforts to tackle air pollution but instead we see even more money poured into building motorways and trunk roads. The draft budget includes a massive £820 million for road building with only £40m left for walking and cycling paths. The current budget allocations are irresponsible and reckless if this Government wants to address traffic, the root cause of our air pollution problem.
“The Scottish Government says that it wants more people to walk and cycle, but if it is serious about this then it has to put its money where its mouth is. It cannot simply expect more people to walk and cycle when our pavements are broken and cycle paths still non-existent in many areas.
“The Netherlands and Denmark provide clear proof that investing in active travel reaps huge health, social and economic benefits. In the long term the Government must spend 10% of its transport budget on walking and cycling. This year, we are calling for it to reallocate a further 1% of the roads and motorway budget to active transport in addition to its existing commitments.
The BBC’s investigation also found that Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh where not using powers to stop and fine polluting vehicles. Hanna commented:
“Getting the most polluting vehicles off the road can make a big difference, so it is disappointing that large councils are not using these powers. The Government should work with councils to make sure the skills and resources are available to allow these powers to be used effectively.”