The Scottish Government today launched its long awaited “Cleaner Air for Scotland” air quality strategy. Campaigners have welcomed the Scottish Government’s ambition to implement World Health Organisation guidelines on safety standards for PM2.5 into statutory limits.
They have also welcomed its commitment to meeting European air quality limits by 2020 as well as plans for a National Modelling Framework but have condemned the admission that Scotland’s air will not be cleaned up by 2020. They are also concerned that the Strategy will require funding to be deliverable.
Levels of air pollution are breaking health standards in 32 official Pollution Zones across Scotland, including in parts of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, and Aberdeen.
Air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland Emilia Hanna said: “Many people have put lots of time into creating this Strategy and it signals important steps in the right direction but it is very disappointing that Scotland will still be waiting for clean air well beyond 2020. Scotland is going to set tougher targets to protect health but doesn’t have a plan which will deliver them any time soon. In particular, there are not enough measures in the Strategy to get the most polluting traffic off our roads.
“Air pollution has been linked with heart attacks, strokes, asthma attacks, and cancer, and causes thousands of early deaths each year in Scotland. We need much more urgent action if we are to tackle Scotland’s current air pollution health crisis.
On Low Emission Zones: “There are 200 Low Emission Zones in European cities, so it is encouraging that officials now suggest that we could see these on the ground in Scotland by 2018. Low Emission Zones will only happen if government helps local councils with dedicated funding.
On Transport actions: “Eighty percent of urban air pollution from nitrogen dioxide comes from traffic so the Scottish Government must tackle traffic levels. Although there are welcome nods to prioritising walking, cycling, and public transport in the new strategy, there is no central plan to reduce traffic levels in urban areas.
On New Statutory Standards for fine particles: “Fine particles have a devastating impact on health and cause over 2000 deaths every year in Scotland, so we welcome the Government’s ambition to introduce a new legal standard to limit these emissions based on World Health Organisation guidelines. However we question how this new standard will be monitored and implemented given that there are only 6 locations in Scotland which currently monitor fine particles.
On the National Modelling Framework: “The Strategy sets out a useful Modelling Framework which would help local councils to choose what measures are most appropriate to tackle air pollution. But there is a danger that the Framework has been usurped to delay other actions in the Strategy, and crucially we do not want it to delay the implementation of vitally needed Low Emission Zones.
On the legality of the Strategy: “The UK Supreme Court made it clear in April that there would have to be a fresh public consultation on air quality plans. The Scottish Government has not consulted the public on the detail of its Cleaner Air for Scotland Strategy since the legal ruling and is therefore failing to abide by the Supreme Court decision.
“European Law requires air quality plans to show how much each action to tackle toxic air will reduce levels of pollution. Cleaner Air for Scotland fails to spell this out and is therefore in breach of the European Ambient Air Quality Directive.”