A BBC Scotland documentary to be aired tonight highlights 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. [1], [2]

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.”



Notes to Editors


[1] The BBC Scotland Investigates Documentary, “Car Sick”, airs on Monday 11th January on BBC 1 (Scotland only) at 7:30pm. For a trailer, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03dssf5

[2] in January 2014 Friends of the Earth Scotland and the Sunday Herald revealed that European and Scottish air quality legal limits continue to be broken in numerous streets in Scotland. http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/air-pollution-streets-2014. We intend to publish a 2015 list in the next week. The list will confirm that air pollution levels in parts of Scotland continue to be dangerously high, posing a risk to public health.

[3]Health impacts of air pollution:

Long term exposure to air pollution, even at levels lower than the legal limits, increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes: http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.f7412

Long term exposure to air pollution at levels lower than the legal limits, in pregnant mothers, can cause babies to be born with low birthweights: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(13)70192-9/abstract

Exposure to high levels of air pollution can reduce children’s lung function: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/journalists/laura-donnelly/11953613/Air-pollu…

Air pollution from fine particles (PM2.5) causes over 2000 deaths every year in Scotland: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil…

[4] Supreme Court orders UK and Scottish Government to draw up new plans to tackle air pollution (29 April 2015)

[5] Friends of the Earth Scotland is

* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups. www.foe-scotland.org.uk