Key points:

Scottish Government has committed to meeting European legal air quality limits across Scotland by 2020;

Scottish Government has not committed to meeting tighter, Scottish air quality standards by 2020;

Scotland to implement World Health Organisation Standards on fine particles into statute;

Officials suggest Low Emission Zones could be in place by 2018 but resources needed

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, 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. [1], [2]

Levels of air pollution are breaking health standards in 32 official Pollution Zones across Scotland, including in parts of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, and Aberdeen. [3] [4]

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.”


Notes to editors:

The Air Quality Plan, called “Cleaner Air for Scotland” can be viewed at http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0048/00488493.pdf

Minister’s speech available at http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Clean-air-strategy-launched-1ef9.aspx

The National newspaper published (4/11/15) a list of mid-year air pollution results, which revealed that nine sites across Scotland are on track to breaking legal limits this year: http://www.thenational.scot/news/data-shows-air-pollution-in-scotland-is…

The Plan was required by the UK Supreme Court, who ruled earlier this year that ongoing illegal levels of air pollution needed to be tackled by developing and investing in effective transport measures. 80% of urban nitrogen dioxide pollution comes from traffic. Defra is launching separate plans for England. Supreme Court judgment: https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2012-0179.html. Defra consultation:https://consult.defra.gov.uk/airquality/draft-aq-plans

For the list of 32 Pollution Zones in Scotland: http://www.scottishairquality.co.uk/laqm/aqma

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…

 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.