On UN World Environment Day (Wed 5th June), environmental campaigners are calling on MSPs to take decisive action to tackle air pollution. The theme of this year’s global day of awareness and action is ‘Beat Air Pollution’. MSPs on the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee today will vote on measures that could improve Scottish bus services and strengthen proposed Low Emission Zones (LEZs) to cut harmful air pollution.

The crucial votes will take place as part of Stage 2 of the Committee’s consideration of the Transport Bill. Key areas to be decided today are:

  • Whether local authorities will be granted powers to run local bus services
  • Duration of ‘grace periods’ for vehicle owners affected by Low Emission Zones
  • If revenue from LEZ fines will be ring-fenced to be spent on green transport
  • Whether LEZs can be revoked arbitrarily by Councils

Friends of the Earth Scotland air pollution campaigner Gavin Thomson commented,

“It is apt that MSPs will have a chance to show Scotland is serious about beating air pollution on World Environment Day. Air pollution is having devastating impacts on the health of people in Scotland and is disproportionately harmful to children, the elderly and those with existing health problems. There are 38 official pollution zones in cities across Scotland and several streets where legal limits on pollution have been exceeded for almost a decade.

“The decision by the Scottish Government to introduce Low Emission Zones is the correct one but these Zones must strong enough to effectively protect public health. The Committee can ensure that the Low Emission Zone legislation keeps the most polluting vehicles out of sensitive areas and can’t be watered down by local authorities that don’t care about public health.

“In practice this means that the MSPs must back grace periods that allow vehicle owners time to make adjustments but that also recognise the urgency of the air pollution health crisis caused by older, polluting vehicles. MSPs must ensure that money received from Low Emission Zone fines are spent on supporting greener travel such as walking, cycling and public transport, thus helping to reduce traffic on the roads. Ill-defined plans to allow Councils to revoke or suspend Low Emission Zones must also be opposed.

“Committee members also look set to grant Councils the powers to set up their own bus companies which can compete against private operators. Given the long-term decline in bus passenger numbers, alongside the urgent need for a more efficient, low-carbon transport system, this amendment could be a game-changer.

“Across the world we see individuals, organisations and authorities taking action to beat air pollution today – politicians at Holyrood have a clear choice about whether they will support ambitious action or continue with polluting business as usual.”

Public transport campaigners will stage a lunchtime protest tomorrow outside the Scottish Parliament in support of publicly-owned buses.

Labour MSP Claudia Beamish has lodged a Scottish Parliament motion recognising World Environment Day theme of Beating Air Pollution and acknowledging “the damage to health that such pollution can bring, especially for very old and very young people, vulnerable people with chronic conditions and people on low incomes.”


NOTES TOE DITORS

1. World Environment Day 2019 will take place on Wednesday 5th June. https://www.worldenvironmentday.global

2. There are events happening across the world to mark World Environment Day http://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/28376/Media_Advisory_WED_KR.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

3. Transport Bill amendment briefing https://foe.scot/resource/briefing-transport-bill-stage-2/

4. The Transport Bill and all proposed amendments. https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/108683.aspx

5. Protest for publicly-owned buses for Scotland. Scottish Parliament, 12noon – 1.30pm https://www.facebook.com/events/300020960945284/

6. World Environment Day Motion S5M-17512: Claudia Beamish, South Scotland, Scottish Labour
Date Lodged: 03/06/2019

That the Parliament recognises that 5 June is World Environment Day 2019; notes that this year has been seminal in raising awareness of the environmental challenges facing governments; welcomes the decision to declare an environment emergency; further welcomes the actions of young people taking part in climate strikes; considers that this year’s theme, Beat Air Pollution, is particularly important given what it sees as the damage to health that such pollution can bring, especially for very old and very young people, vulnerable people with chronic conditions and people on low incomes; calls on the Scottish Government to back up its declaration of climate and environmental emergencies with further solid policy proposals for action in recognition of this awareness day; recognises what it believes are concerns regarding the country’s internationally-binding 2020 biodiversity targets, and urges the Scottish Ministers to develop further bold inclusive actions to address this challenge and establish a post-2020 biodiversity action plan.

Supported by: Elaine Smith, Jackie Baillie, Andy Wightman
https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx?SearchType=Advance&ReferenceNumbers=S5M-17512&ResultsPerPage=10

7. 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.scot