Environmental Standards Scotland proposed Strategic Plan laid to Parliament

Environmental Standards Scotland (ESS) has laid its proposed Strategic Plan before the Scottish Parliament for approval. 

Following ESS’s recent consultation, the revised Strategic Plan sets out how ESS will work over the next three years to carry out its role to scrutinise, investigate and then secure compliance with, and improvements to the effectiveness of, Scotland’s environmental laws.

You can read more about the Strategic Plan here.

Environmental Standards Scotland takes action on Scotland’s failure to comply with air quality limit values

Environmental Standards Scotland (ESS) has issued an improvement report to the Scottish Government following its investigation into compliance with air quality limit values.

The report, published on 29 September 2022, sets out evidence of a continued failure in some areas of Scotland to meet statutory limit values for nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

The report also identifies weaknesses in the current operational and governance arrangements to improve local air quality and ensure future compliance with NO2 limit values.

In response to the report, the Scottish Government must prepare an improvement plan setting out how it intends to implement the recommendations in the report and present this to the Scottish Parliament for approval.

Key findings within the ESS report include:

  • Air quality management areas (AQMAs) exist to focus efforts on improving air quality. In some areas, they have been in place for years;
  • A number of local authority Air Quality Action Plans have not been reviewed for significant periods of time or have been published years after the declaration of the AQMA to which they relate;
  • Concern that the local air quality management framework is not robust enough to provide a comprehensive picture of local air quality, particularly in and around our cities;
  • Despite long term non-compliance with NO2 limit values, existing powers to direct local authorities to take action have not been used;
  • The system of governance and oversight of air quality in Scotland is overly complex and opaque.

Mark Roberts, Chief Executive of ESS, said:

“Despite efforts to improve air quality, there are still areas of non-compliance with respect to nitrogen dioxide, and these are anticipated to continue in the future. Given the length of time which has passed since compliance should have been achieved, and the serious impacts poor air quality can have on public health, we have decided to issue this improvement report.

If the Scottish Government decides to keep pace with European Union plans to reduce limits for nitrogen dioxide further, we do not consider that the existing system will be capable of meeting these revised limits effectively and in the shortest time possible.”

You can read the full report, findings and recommendations here.

Report on vaping advertising consultation published

The Scottish Government has published its report on the Tightening rules on advertising and promoting vaping products consultation.

The consultation ran from 3 February 2022 to 29 April 2022 and sought views on proposed regulations which aim to strike a balance between protecting non-smokers and making information available to smokers. The responses and consultation analysis will help the Scottish Government to finalise the scope of these regulations.

The consultation attracted polarising views between two main groups:

  • Smokers, ex-smokers, dual users (i.e. electronic cigarette users and cigarette smokers), and those who only use vape products and/or who know someone who uses vape products.
  • Those who feel that current advertising and promotion of vaping products is too attractive/appealing to children, young people, and adult non-smokers. This includes parents/guardians, teachers, and those who work in a health setting.

A total of 757 validated responses were received to the consultation and the vast majority were from individuals – there were 43 organisational responses. Organisations that submitted a response include local government, health organisations, the tobacco industry, the vaping sector, and other organisations (e.g. those that sell tobacco and vaping related products).

Individual responses to closed questions in the consultation are typically split 50:50 (i.e. roughly the same proportion of individuals support the Scottish Government proposals as those individuals who do not support the proposals).

In terms of organisation respondents, those who support the proposals outlined in the consultation document are in the main local government and health organisations. Those organisations who are less likely to support the proposals are the vaping sector, tobacco industry, and other organisations (e.g. those that sell tobacco and vaping related products).

Legislation passed in 2016 Health (Tobacco, Nicotine etc. and Care) (Scotland) Act 2016 (legislation.gov.uk) allows for the Minister to lay regulations before Scotland’s Parliament to enact some domestic e-cigarette advertising provisions.   

REHIS News – September 2022

The September e-newsletter has been issued. If you subscribe to receive the e-newsletter you will have already received this.


The Institute was saddened to learn of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Jackie McCabe, Chief Executive was honoured to receive an invitation, on behalf of the Institute, to attend the Service of Reflection and Thanksgiving at St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh. 

Autumn sees our calendar of events start to increase with numerous CPD opportunities coming up. The Environmental Health Update (free to members) and Annual General meeting is being held as a hybrid event on Friday 18 November from the Edinburgh Training and Conference Centre for ‘in person’ delegates and online via MS Teams for those who wish to attend remotely.

Planning is well underway for a number of other professional courses and updates in the next couple of months, including training on Dog Control legislation, Pollution Update, Health and Safety Update, Environmental Public Health and Housing Update. The Northern and Southern Centres also have upcoming training events. Look out for more details and booking forms on the Events page of the website.

The Institute Professional Examinations took place on 13 & 14 September at the Carnegie Conference Centre in Dunfermline. Those newly qualified professionals, recipients of the REHIS Diploma in Environmental Health or the SFSORB Higher Certificate in Food Practice, will be officially presented with their awards at the Annual Forum in Spring 2023.

Hopefully all members have had the opportunity to browse the new website and we would ask you to note the new means of recording CPD in the members only section, which allows electronic addition of evidence for CPD activities and will allow for electronic submission at the end of the year. Entries can be added at anytime and are held on the system until you are ready to submit. REHIS Approved Training Centres can now register courses and request packs via the website, including the new Licensing courses. Results from courses can also be submitted via the website.

Another piece of news we wish to share with you is that we will be recruiting for a couple of positions within the Institute. The first being a job share for the Director of Professional Development to work with Karen Keeley who is reducing her hours. The DPD role is key to the Institute, and we will be looking for a Chartered EHO or an EHO member working towards Chartered status. Carol Campbell, our Training Administrative Assistant is retiring at the end of the year.  Carol’s role is fundamental to Community Training and includes the preparation and issuing of course packs and processing candidate certificates. We are very sorry to see Carol go and wish her all the very best in her retirement. Details of both vacancies will be available very shortly on the Institute’s website.

Finally, we would like to thank all members who completed the recent membership survey. We are currently working our way through the responses. The information gathered will help us continue making improvements to the work of the Institute and will form part of the strategic objectives for the next three years.

Did you know that the Institute has many Elementary Food Hygiene and Health and Safety course materials and exam papers translated into various languages.  These include Polish, Chinese, Urdu, Arabic and very recently in Ukrainian.  Contact the Director of Training for more information.

Concerns over The Retained EU Law Bill

The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, published by the House of Commons, seeks to revoke over 2,400 pieces of EU legislation that were included in the UK statute book at the end of the Brexit transition period.

Retained EU Law is a category of domestic law created at the end of the transition period and consists of EU-derived legislation that was preserved in the domestic legal framework by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

The Bill will sunset the majority of retained EU law so that it expires on 31st December 2023. All retained EU law contained in domestic secondary legislation and retained direct EU legislation will expire on this date, unless otherwise preserved. Any retained EU law that remains in force after the sunset date will be assimilated in the domestic statute book, by the removal of the special EU law features previously attached to it. 

Before that date, Government departments and the devolved administrations require to determine which retained EU law can expire, and which needs to be preserved and incorporated into domestic law.

The Bill includes an extension mechanism for the sunset of specified pieces of retained EU law until 2026. Should it be required, this will allow departments additional time where necessary to assess whether some retained EU law should be preserved.

In Scotland food regulation has been driven by the EU. There are over 50 separate EU Directives and Regulations alone that govern food standards in the UK. 

The Retained EU law currently enforces food businesses to maintain minimum levels of hygiene in addition to providing clear information on food labelling.

The FSS believe the Bill, which was published on 22 September 2022, would result in the removal of consumer protections relating to food which have previously applied in Scotland and the rest of the UK for many years.

In order to preserve these same standards in law, FSS will be required to act which would require a substantial resource in an extraordinarily short timeframe. FSS warns that hard pressed resources will now have to be devoted to introducing new law to maintain existing law to protect Scottish consumers.

Even if high legal standards continued to apply in Scotland, the agency says that the Internal Market Act means there would be no way of preventing goods produced under lower legal standards from elsewhere in the UK being sold in Scotland.

The Internal Market Act, introduced in 2020, was opposed by the FSS due to significant concerns voiced by the agency that were ignored.

Heather Kelman, Chair of FSS, commented: “At the heart of what we do, is our responsibility to protect Scottish consumers. This Bill, as it currently stands, poses a significant risk to Scotland’s ability to uphold the high safety and food standards which the public expects and deserves.  

“Much of the legislation which could be repealed as a result of the sun-setting clause has been developed over the course of decades and with significant UK input and influence. It exists to ensure  consumer safety through the protection of the most vulnerable and ensuring the food and feed which is on the market is safe.

“This Bill could lead to a significant hole where consumer protections sit. The purpose of regulators and regulations, especially in relation to food, is to protect consumers. This Bill confuses ‘red tape’ with consumer protection and indicates that the latter is now less of a priority and of less importance than when we were in the EU.

“Whichever way consumers voted on Brexit, they did not vote for a race to the bottom of lower standards and a de-regulated landscape that reduces consumer protection. We cannot imagine that this is what the UK Government intends.”

World Environmental Health Day – 26 September 2022

Every year, 26 September is marked as World Environmental Health Day across the globe.

World Environmental Health Day is observed to raise awareness regarding the significance of the health of our environment.

The theme for the 2022 is “Strengthening Environmental Health Systems for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals”.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity now and in the future.

The 17 SDGs are integrated – they recognize that action in one area will affect outcomes in others, and that development must balance social, economic, and environmental sustainability, all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.

The mission statement of the United Nations on SDGs is as follows:
“A blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all people and the world by 2030.”

Environmental Health plays a pivotal role in the implementation of these SDGs. It is interesting to note that Environmental Health fits into 7 SDGs, 19 targets and 30 indicators of the SDGs.

For more information about the day and how it is being celebrated across the Globe see here

New framework announced to tackle industrial emissions across the UK

Pollution caused by industrial emissions is set to be reduced and environmental performance improved under a new framework of regulation that will better protect our air, water and land.

The UK’s new Best Available Techniques framework will enable regulators and industry to work together to identify and apply up to date, challenging standards when it comes to reducing harmful emissions.

Under the permits granted by environmental regulators to industrial facilities – such as textile and chemical industries – businesses must use the best techniques available to them to prevent or minimise emissions and their impacts on the environment.

The new framework will see the UK government and Devolved Administrations (the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and DAERA) working with industry and local councils to identify these methods – known as ‘Best Available Techniques’ (BAT) – from across the UK’s largest industries. This process includes agreeing and setting emissions limits within environmental permits and determining the types of technologies and methods operators should use to reduce their environmental impact.

Building on existing levels of environmental protection, it aims to develop higher standards for industrial emissions, as the UK moves away from the EU’s regulatory framework towards one that better caters to UK businesses and the wellbeing of local communities. The collaborative approach will also give industry greater certainty to support investment that will drive forward innovation in cleaner technologies.

A new governance structure will also be established, with new independent bodies – called the Standards Council and the Regulators Group – consisting of government officials and expert regulators from all four nations of the UK. A UK Air Quality Governance Group will also be established to oversee the work of the Standards Council and the delivery of the requirements under this new framework. Interested parties from industry, academia and civil society will be able to engage in the running of the BAT system through an advisory group being set up by the UK BAT Team.

Consultation published for updated Bread and Flour regulations

Scotland is to be part of a UK-wide consultation on proposed amendments to the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998, which requires the addition of certain nutrients to non-wholemeal wheat flour to protect public health.

The 12-week consultation, which launched on 1 September, is being led by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), in collaboration with The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Wales and Northern Ireland (NI).

The consultation seeks views on proposals to make adjustments to the nutrients currently added to non-wholemeal wheat flour, and the addition of folic acid, with the aim of improving public health outcomes for Scotland and the wider UK population.

The addition of folic acid to help reduce the incidence of foetal neural tube defects follows a previous consultation and an agreement by the Scottish Government, UK Government and devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland, to proceed with its mandatory fortification.

The package of proposals being put forward will lead to improved public health, support UK industry, assist enforcement authorities and protect consumers.

You can find out more about the details of the consultation and take part by visiting the DEFRA website. The consultation closes on 23 November.

AQMA in East Dunbartonshire to be revoked 

East Dunbartonshire Council have announced that their Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) in Bearsden can now be removed due to improvements made, with backing from the Scottish Government and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.

The AQMA covers a 60 metre-wide corridor along the A809/A810 to the junction with Antonine Road, to the south beyond Canniesburn Toll and to the east of Roman Road Car Park, with a small section of Stockiemuir Road also included.

It was given that status in 2011 after concerns over levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Particulate Matter (PM10).

Annual mean (average) levels of NO2 and PM10 in the Bearsden AQMA are now well below national objectives. 

The annual mean NO2 concentration in 2010 was 47 µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre of air) and in 2019 this fell to 32 µg/m3 and then further decreasing to 20 µg/m3 in 2020. 

For PM10 Annual Mean concentration in 2010 was 25 µg/m3. This feel to 11 µg/m3 in 2019 and then further fell to 8 µg/m3 in 2020. 

This is well below Scottish air quality objectives which have annual mean (average) of 40 µg/m3 for NO2 and 18 µg/m3 for PM10. 

Guidance recommends that where pollutant levels have reduced and remain below objectives for at least three consecutive years, an AQMA order should be revoked.

That was the case in 2017, 2018 and 2019 – prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, so not influenced by the reduction in traffic during lockdown periods.

Both the Scottish Government and SEPA have agreed the AQMA status should be revoked.

It is thought to be due in part to improving emission standards of vehicles, improvements within the overall road network and measures undertaken by the Council as part of its Air Quality Action Plan.

The Council will now publish a Notice of Intention to revoke the AQMA, and seek the views of statutory consultees, local businesses and the public.

The Bearsden Air Quality Action Plan will remain in place, and the Council will continue to monitor levels and work to reduce pollution across East Dunbartonshire.

Figures for 2020 show NO2 and PM10 pollution levels continue to fall.

Councillor Paul Ferretti, Convener of Place, Neighbourhood and Corporate Assets, said, “This is excellent news, but it is not the end of the journey. We will continue to work to reduce air pollution across East Dunbartonshire, along with a range of partners.

“The removal of the AQMA is based on evidence – gathered before the pandemic, when traffic levels fell significantly – and backed by advice from the Scottish Government and SEPA.

“We’re committed to a number of policies and strategies to improve the environment for the benefit of our residents and generations to come.”

Smoking banned near hospital buildings

Patients and healthcare staff will no longer face second-hand smoke at hospital doors as a nationwide ban came into effect on Monday 5 September.

The new legislation The Prohibition of Smoking Outside Hospital Buildings (Scotland) Regulations 2022 means anyone found lighting up within fifteen metres of a hospital building could face a fixed penalty notice of £50 or a fine of up to £1,000 if the case goes to court.

This is the latest step in the Scottish Government’s plan to create a tobacco free Scotland by 2034 and supports the voluntary smoke-free hospital grounds policy introduced in 2015.    

The new law will apply to NHS hospital settings used for the treatment and care of patients and includes a ban on lighting up beneath overhanging structures.

Public Health Minister Maree Todd said:

“Everyone knows that smoking is bad for our health and hospital patients in particular should be protected from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.

“This new law is the latest step in our bold plan to make Scotland tobacco-free by 2034 – building on our dedicated stop-smoking services and early intervention measures to stop youngsters picking up the habit altogether.

“Anyone looking to quit can contact the NHS QuitYourWay Helpline or speak to their local pharmacy to discuss the range of help available.”

ASH Scotland Chief Executive Sheila Duffy said:

“Extending current legislation to include outdoor areas will have the positive impact of protecting people from the harmful effects of breathing in toxic tobacco smoke through vents, windows or doorways while they are being treated and recovering in hospital. 

“We urge people who smoke to be considerate in remaining outside the 15-metre perimeter, ensuring hospital patients do not face unnecessary additional risks to their health caused by inhaling harmful substances.

“This is particularly important as Scotland challenges the normalisation of smoking on our journey towards becoming tobacco-free.” 

Facemasks no longer recommended in social care

Social care staff and visitors are no longer being advised to wear facemasks at all times under new guidance published.

The recommendation has been lifted due to a sharp drop in coronavirus infections and a reduction in severity of illness, which has been driven by Scotland’s successful vaccination programme which has so far seen more than 12 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in Scotland.

Care home residents and their loved ones will benefit from these more relaxed visiting arrangements. Masks and face coverings in social care may still be worn if recommended in certain situations, such as a local outbreak of COVID, or if staff deem it necessary. Staff and visitors remain free to wear one if they choose.

This guidance balances the risk of harm from COVID-19 with the impact masks can have on communication, mental wellbeing and rights and choices of those working in and using social care services.

Social Care Minister Kevin Stewart said:

“Our phenomenally successful vaccination programme has driven down infections and saved the NHS from untold pressures.

“Removing the need for facemasks in social care settings including care homes is the latest step in our path to recovering from the pandemic.

“This will make communication and relationships easier in care settings, benefiting mental health and promoting the rights and choices of those working in and using social care.”

E.Coli O157 Outbreak in East Lothian Update

A total of 56 confirmed cases have been linked to an E.Coli O157 outbreak in East Lothian. The outbreak resulted in the closure of five nurseries, all of which have since reopened following inspections from East Lothian Council environmental health team, the Care Inspectorate and NHS Lothian Public Health team.

NHS Lothian formed an Incident Management Team (IMT) to investigate the cluster of cases. The IMT was made up a number of organisations including NHS Lothian Health Protection Team, Public Health Scotland, East Lothian Environmental Health Department, East Lothian Education Department, and the Care Inspectorate.

The role of the IMT was to identify cases, prevent further spread of the infection and put in place robust control measures to safeguard public health.

Work is still continuing behind the scenes by the health care scientists in epidemiology and microbiology to try and identify the source of the infection.

The outbreak caused the closure of three nurseries in Haddington and two nurseries in Musselburgh. 

Church Street Pear Tree Nursery in Haddington was originally closed on August 2 after a number of children fell ill and went on to test positive for E-Coli O157.

The sister nursery Meadowpark Pear Tree Nursery was closed on August 12 as a precaution when sickness symptoms were reported before E.coli O157 went on to be confirmed on August 18. Musselburgh Private Nursery on Bridge Street was then shut on August 19.

West Road Pear Tree Nursery in Haddington and Musselburgh Private Nursery, Stoneybank, were both closed as a precaution following sickness symptoms. The infection was not confirmed at West Road Pear Tree Nursery.

All staff and pupils of all the nurseries apart from West Road Pear Tree were formally excluded under the Public Health Act. 

Dr Josie Murray, Consultant in Public Health Medicine and Chair of the multi-agency Incident Management Team (IMT), said: “We are really encouraged to see all of the nurseries open their doors once again and welcome back their staff and pupils.

“We know it has been a really difficult time for everyone involved, especially in accepting some of the control measures which were vital in containing the infection and stopping its spread within the community.

 “On behalf of the IMT, I would like to thank everyone for working with us throughout this rapidly evolving and complex outbreak.”

Letters providing the most up to date information have been issued to families directly in some circumstances and via the nurseries distribution systems.

The complex outbreak has evolved rapidly and a set of FAQs were developed to help answer questions from concerned families and carers and can be found on NHS Lothian’s website.

If families have incurred financial losses due to the public health control measures for the E-Coli outbreak, they are entitled to submit a claim for compensation and details are contained in the exclusion letters.