The Scottish Parliament has failed to take the urgent action required to cut air pollution and reduce climate emissions as it voted on amendments to the Transport Bill, say environmental campaigners.

The Transport Bill sets out the legal provisions for Low Emission Zones in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Dundee. MSPs agreed ‘grace periods’ which would allow councils up to 6 years to fully implement these Low Emission Zones. Campaigners say this means children and those affected by air pollution may have to endure another 6 years of being choked by air pollution on Scottish streets. Nor does the Bill take action in line with the recent commitment to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The Bill will provide councils with a variety of new powers, including the ability to set up publicly owned bus companies – a reversal of bus privatisation. Publicly owned bus companies have the potential to reverse the decline in passenger numbers by providing a complete network where busy routes can subsidise quieter routes.

Following the Transport Bill debate, Friends of the Earth Scotland say that the Workplace Parking Levy has been misrepresented and misunderstood by many MSPs.

The powers would allow councils to introduce a Workplace Parking Levy, taking into consideration local circumstances and access to other transport modes. The charge is paid by employers, who decide whether to pass it on to staff who use the parking spaces.

A Workplace Parking Levy was introduced in Nottingham and applies to workplaces with more than 11 parking spaces. The revenue generated in Nottingham has been reinvested in public transport improvements for the city, such as contributing to a tram extension. Both Glasgow and Edinburgh Council have backed introducing the measure.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Air Pollution Campaigner, Gavin Thomson, said:

On Workplace Parking Levy

“Some of the rhetoric surrounding the workplace parking levy through this process has been wilfully misleading. For MSPs to back urgent action on climate, but make these misleading objections to reducing fossil fuel car use in city centres is inconsistent at best, and dangerous hypocrisy at worst.”

“WPL is an optional power, specifically requested by our two biggest city councils to cope with transport challenges of city centres. It would only be introduced if local authorities choose to do so, having taken into account local circumstances and after consultation with people likely to be affected.

“We need to have realistic, evidence-based conversations about the choices we must make to reduce climate emissions from our transport system. Some MSPs would rather peddle the fantasy that everyone will be able to drive their car wherever they like, and park wherever they want with no restrictions and no regard for the consequences on other people or the planet.

“Workplace parking levies have a track record of bringing much needed investment to transport infrastructure, and creating healthier places to live and work. The revenue from this levy can be used to help councils set up and run their own bus companies, which was also included in the final Transport Bill.”

On Low Emission Zones

“MSPs have failed to support amendments which could have speeded up the introduction of Low Emission Zones and ensured a greater reduction in climate emissions from transport. The Climate Emergency means we don’t have time to pass up an opportunity to make transformative change to the way we move around. Our car-dominated transport system needs to change, and this Bill leaves the government and councils with so much more to do”.

“Low Emission Zones will improve the air we breathe, by restricting the most polluting vehicles from cities. It is great that these are now enshrined in law, but their weak rules and unnecessarily long phase-in periods mean they are wholly inadequate for the scale of the public health crisis we face. The amendments to allow councils to act sooner were ignored so children growing up in Scotland’s cities are now condemned to another 6 years of choking on toxic air.

On buses

“Greater powers for local authorities to operate publicly owned bus services are to be welcomed. Bus deregulation has been a disaster for Scotland. Private bus operators have failed in many areas of the country, leaving us with declining bus passenger numbers, ever-increasing fares, and a fragmented network that serves company greed rather than community needs. Buses should be run as a public service, not for private profit. Busy routes should be used to subsidise quieter routes, to ensure a comprehensive, reliable network.

“By increasing bus use we will cut air pollution and reduce climate emissions. We hope Councils will look carefully at these new powers and work with Government to boost bus routes and passenger numbers in their areas.

“Councils will need support and funding in order to deliver the much-needed improvements in our transport system. Scotland currently spends billions on new roads every year, favouring car drivers but only making tiny gains in journey times. Public cash for pointless new roads should be diverted to public transport, to help Councils set up comprehensive, affordable networks that can benefit everyone.”

“If parties want to turn these bus ownership amendments into positive change that people can see on Scotland’s streets, they must now back the whole Transport Bill.”


Notes to Editors

1. Health impacts of air pollution:
– Friends of the Earth Scotland estimate that 2500 people die early each year from air pollution in Scotland alone: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/RCP-Report
– Air pollution, at levels seen on Scottish streets, has been linked with :
– Respiratory illness including asthma and COPD
– Heart attacks and strokes
– Low birthweight and delayed development in babies whose mothers have been exposed
– Poor lung development in children
– Dementia
– Children, the elderly, people with pre-existing health conditions, and sick are disproportionately affected by air pollution.
– (for more, see the Royal College of Physicians’ 2016 report, “Every Breath we Take: The lifelong impact of air pollution”: https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution)

2. LEZs were first proposed in 2015. The SNP 2016 Scottish Election manifesto promised a Low Emission Zone by 2018. The Glasgow SNP promised an LEZ for the city in their 2017 Council Election manifesto. In September 2017 the Government confirmed the first LEZ would be in Glasgow and there would be further Zones in Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh by 2020.

3. The amendments tabled for Stage 3 were collated here: https://www.parliament.scot/S5_Bills/Transport%20(Scotland)%20Bill/SPBill33AGS052019.pdf

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s briefing, recommending which amendments MSPs should have supported, is available here: https://foe.scot/resource/transport-bill-stage-3-briefing-msps/

4. Glasgow City Council formally asked the Scottish Government for Workplace Parking Levy powers.
City of Edinburgh Council replied to the Transport Bill initial consultation saying that Workplace Parking Levy powers should be added.

The levy has worked well in Nottingham, introduced and run by a Labour council. https://www.citymetric.com/transport/why-other-cities-should-copy-nottinghams-revolutionary-parking-levy-2382

A previous Scottish Government, led by Scottish Labour, advocated for the Workplace Parking Levy. The measures were contained in a discussion document published by former Transport Minister Sarah Boyack on different ways to tackle Scotland’s increasing traffic congestion. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/392334.stm

5. Scottish Parliament has new Climate Legislation. 25 Sep 2019. https://www.stopclimatechaos.scot/climatebill/

In 2017, road transport was the largest source of emissions in Scotland. Road transport emissions have increased by 11.1 per cent between 1990 and 2017.

Transport (excluding International Aviation and Shipping) was responsible for 32.1% of Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2017. https://www.gov.scot/publications/scottish-greenhouse-gas-emissions-2017/pages/3/

6. Majority of Scots back public ownership of bus services, new poll finds (July 2018) https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/12982/majority-scots-back-public-ownership-bus-services-new-poll-finds

7. Number of bus journeys in Scotland fall by 100 million over decade (Feb 2019)

Transport and Travel Statistics from Scottish Government (Sep 2018) https://www.transport.gov.scot/publication/transport-and-travel-in-scotland-2017/sct08183658301-11/

8. SPICe report on buses in Scotland. Page 9 highlights regional differences in the falling of passenger numbers. https://sp-bpr-en-prod-cdnep.azureedge.net/published/2018/9/3/Transport–Scotland–Bill–Buses/SB%2018-54.pdf

9. Free-to-use photos of protests calling for better public transport are available here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmEcX3yW

10. 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.

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