Continued failure to tackle air pollution will result in unnecessary deaths

Speaking at a meeting of the Scottish Emissions Transport Partnership in Edinburgh, Transport Minister Keith Brown promised a draft Strategy to solve toxic air pollution in Scottish cities by the end of the year, nearly a year later than originally promised. [1]

Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth, Dundee, and Aberdeen all suffer from dangerously high levels of air pollution. Across Scotland, there are 35 pollution zones in 15 local authority areas where levels of toxic fumes are breaking safe standards which were supposed to have been met in 2005. [2] Exposure to air pollution leads to premature death by increasing chances of lung cancer, heart attacks, and strokes. Over 2000 Scots each year die from exposure to air pollution according to health statistics released earlier this year. [3]

The Scottish and UK government are under a legal obligation to reduce air pollution and are currently the subject of two legal complaints being heard by the European Court of Justice. [4]

Emilia Hanna, Air Pollution Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, said

“Last year we were promised a strategy in spring 2014, now it is to be Christmas at the earliest. Another 2000 people have died while we have waited for the government to get its act in gear on air pollution. Meanwhile the Government’s Draft Budget allocates over 200 times the amount of money to building new roads as it does to improving air quality. [5] We urgently need an effective and fully-funded strategy to fix pollution in our towns and cities.”

When the Strategy is finally published, Friends of the Earth Scotland want it to include:

– A clear commitment to a date before 2020 by which Scottish cities will have clean air
– Additional funding for local authorities to be able to implement Low Emission Zones, improve walking and cycling infrastructure, and retrofit or upgrade bus fleets.
– A Framework to roll out Ultra Low Emission Zones in cities across Scotland, so that the cars, LGVs, HGVs and buses are excluded [6]
– Targets to increase the number of journeys taken by public transport, walking, and cycling

“We need a clear deadline for clean air and a set of measures which will get us there. The solutions are clear, but the Government’s commitment to solving the problem is not.”


Notes to Editors

[1] Keith Brown spoke at a meeting of the Scottish Transport Emissions Partnership which is a group of stakeholders working on air pollution from transport, at the Edinburgh School of Informatics. For details of the event, please visit http://foe-scotland.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=b5ad0d61b2a67d22c6…

[2] See http://foe-scotland.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=b5ad0d61b2a67d22c6… for a list of all the Pollution Zones (officially known as “Air Quality Management Areas”) across Scotland. See http://foe-scotland.us2.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=b5ad0d61b2a67d22c… for more details of the Air Quality Standards for Scotland.

[3] Health impacts of air pollution:

Air pollution from fine particles (PM2.5) is responsible for an equivalent of over 2000 deaths each year in Scotland, according to research by Public Health England: http://foe-scotland.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=b5ad0d61b2a67d22c6…. The Scottish figures are in Table 3.
In 2013 the WHO’s specialized cancer agency, the IARC, classified the cocktail of air pollution as carcinogenic to humans and named it as a leading cause of cancer deaths: http://foe-scotland.us2.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=b5ad0d61b2a67d22c…
In January 2014, research from a European study found that long-term exposure to small and fine particles (PM10 and PM2.5) increases the risk heart attacks and unstable angina: http://foe-scotland.us2.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=b5ad0d61b2a67d22c…
Ambient air pollution has also been linked with restricted foetal growth in European countries, which is linked with adverse respiratory health in childhood: http://foe-scotland.us2.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=b5ad0d61b2a67d22c… 2600(13)70192-9/abstract
Air pollution across the UK as a whole costs the NHS between £8.5 billion and £20.2 billion a year: Defra, The Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (July 2007)

[4] The first legal case is one brought by UK environment campaign ClientEarth against the UK for failing to comply with EU law on air pollution. The Court of Justice of the European Union is due to make a ruling on this on Wednesday 19 November. For more information, see http://foe-scotland.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=b5ad0d61b2a67d22c6…

The second legal action is one brought by the European Commission against the United Kingdom for failing to comply with EU air pollution law. For details, see http://foe-scotland.us2.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=b5ad0d61b2a67d22c…

[5] The detailed draft budget for 2015-16 allocates £3.15 million to improving air quality compared with £694.8 million to motorways and trunk roads infrastructure.

[6] A Low Emission Zone is an area where the most polluting vehicles are excluded or have to pay a fine. There are approximately 200 Low Emission Zones across Europe.

[7] Friends of the Earth Scotland revealed a list of Scotland’s most polluted streets in January 2014 where pollution levels are breaking Scottish Standards. See http://foe-scotland.us2.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=b5ad0d61b2a67d22c…

[8] 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, 74 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups. www.foe-scotland.org.uk