Scotland must make improvements to achieve the best air quality in Europe

A Holyrood Committee has outlined a number of recommendations in order for Scotland to try to achieve the cleanest air in Europe.

The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee has published its Air Quality in Scotland Inquiry report, following an inquiry into the Scottish Government’s strategy to tackle harmful emissions and how well this fits into the overall plans to cut pollution in the UK and EU.

Commenting on the publishing of the report David Duffy, Senior Vice President of Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS) said:

"“Scotland, for the most part, has good air quality, however it is recognised that there are hot spots where pollution is too high. Air Quality receives a great deal of media and political attention and REHIS, on behalf of its membership, welcomed the opportunity to contribute to a critical public health influencing area through participation in the Committee’s evidence gathering process. Our memberships activities, along with fellow air quality specialists and other professionals are key contributors to the Cleaner Air for Scotland’s objectives. Working together with other professional disciplines, recognising that there are different drivers but finding practical solutions which satisfy all parties needs, in my opinion, will provide those we act on behalf of with the most gains.”

Some of the key findings in the report include:

Suitability of the Cleaner Air for Scotland (CAFS) strategy

  • The Committee is concerned about the direction of travel, rate of change and action on the ground and recommends that CAFS is kept under review to ensure that it remains fit for purpose given the continual changes that are being seen in this area.

Diesel cars

  • Emissions from diesel cars is one of the major contributors to poor air quality and the Committee supports the decision to phase out petrol, diesel cars and vans by 2032. 
  • But the Scottish Government must provide a clear timeline for how it intends to reach this commitment, including any regulations or incentives. 

Low emission zones (LEZs)

  • The Committee supports LEZs but it has concerns on the tight timescale to get these up and running. 
  • It also questions whether local authorities have the technical and financial resources to ensure they are fully operational by 2018 and beyond. 
  • The Committee believes that private cars should be included in LEZs, in order to fully contribute to improvements in air quality. 

Transport and active travel

  • The decrease in passenger numbers on buses over the 5 years is concerning. While access to buses, particularly in rural communities, touches on wider issues, the affordability, availability and accessibility of buses is a significant contributor to helping people leave their cars at home. 
  •  To meet air quality and wider climate change targets, increasing the number of journeys by bike to 10% and beyond is necessary. The Scottish Government should complete a full review of why the percentage of journeys only rose by 0.2% between 2010 and 2016.

Freight transport

  • The Committee recognises the potential benefits to air quality in removing freight from the roads, particular during peak times in urban areas and recommends that the Scottish Government provide an update on its plans for consolidation centres, moving freight from road to rail and night time deliveries.

Other causes of air pollution

  • The Committee recommends that the Scottish Government review the current regulations and guidance on the installation of wood burning and multi fuel stoves and boilers in homes to ensure that air pollution from wood burning and multi-fuel stoves is sufficiently considered and appropriately regulated.

 

REHIS is a registered charity in Scotland, SC009406

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