Calls for tougher action to tackle deadly air pollution
Air quality in Scotland has been breaching legal limits since 2010.
Statistics suggest around 2,500 Scots die prematurely each year as a direct result of breathing toxic fumes.
The Cleaner Air for Scotland plan was published by the Scottish Government in October 2020, with the aim of reducing levels of harmful airborne particles.
Proposals include introduction of low-emissions zones in some of the most heavily polluted areas, improving public transport networks and facilitating an increase in active travel.
A public consultation on the plan is currently under way, due to end next week,
But health and environmental campaign groups have raised concerns about the effectiveness of measures outlined and question how much of an impact the initiative will have.
They say the strategy does not contain sufficient measures to cut poisonous traffic emissions, which pose a risk to public health.
They have also criticised a lack of action on key recommendations from an independent review of the government’s work on air quality – such as ending trunk road expansion and increasing the funding for walking and cycling.
Studies have shown breathing poisonous particles is a major cause of health conditions such as asthma, lung disease, stroke and heart disease.
Air pollution is estimated to cause around 40,000 early deaths – about 8.3 per cent of the total – across the UK, with a cost to the country of around £40 billion.
“It is unacceptable that Scotland's air quality continues to breach legal limits,” said Joseph Carter, head of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation Scotland.
“It's clear that high pollution levels have detrimental outcomes for people with lung conditions, as 90 per cent of people we support struggle to breathe during these episodes.
“As it stands the plan does not go far enough to reduce the serious damage caused by poor air quality.
“The Scottish Government must make it a priority to build a more robust Clean Air Plan that protects our nation’s lung health.”
Gavin Thomson, air pollution campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “To achieve clean air across Scotland we need to see firm proposals rather than just warm words.
“As it stands, this strategy is a huge missed opportunity.
He added: “By committing to the action that will allow more people to safely walk, cycle and use public transport we can cut emissions and deliver benefits for public health and connectivity.”
David McColgan, senior policy and public affairs manager for British Heart Foundation Scotland, said: “The priority for the Scottish Government must be to reduce traffic in the most polluted areas.
“This will have a beneficial impact on heart and circulatory diseases in Scotland, ultimately saving lives and reducing pressure on the NHS.
“The Cleaner Air for Scotland plan offers an opportunity to do this and we would urge the Scottish Government to take bold steps and to go further in tackling traffic and other harmful sources of pollution.”
Olivia is 34 and lives in Edinburgh. She has severe asthma and struggles when air pollution levels are high.
Edinburgh is home to some of the most polluted streets in Scotland, with Nicolson Street and St John’s Road regularly showing particularly high levels.
“During busier times of year, when traffic levels increase and air quality is worse, I can’t go near the centre of town as I have severe asthma and it can trigger my symptoms to flare up,” she said.
“If I’m exposed to high levels of air pollution my chest and breathing can be really bad even the day after the exposure.
“I do my best to avoid high pollution levels, using various apps to track the air quality around me and try to protect my lungs as much as I can.”
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