Ministers under fire over failure to tackle air pollution

Environmentalists have hit out at Scottish ministers for inaction on tackling dangerous levels of air pollution.

Air pollution causes 2,500 early deaths in Scotland annually. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

They says the Scottish Government’s contribution to the new draft Air Quality Plan for the UK is “lacking in urgency and uninspired”.

The new plan was ordered by the High Court after a previous incarnation was ruled unlawful for aiming too low.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But activists from Friends of the Earth Scotland say the Scottish Government has put nothing new on the table except a commitment to set up one low-emission zone.

“Our towns and cities continue to be plagued with invisible killer air pollution, but the Scottish Government’s input into a new plan for action has been lacking in urgency and uninspired,” said air pollution campaigner Emilia Hanna.

“The High Court demanded fresh plans showing how air pollution would be reduced as quickly as possible, and required that every technically feasible measure be included. As part of those plans, the Scottish Government’s key commitment is to consult on a Low Emissions Framework later this year. But it was supposed to have completed that Framework back in 2016.

“The input from the Scottish Government falls well short of tackling our air pollution crisis, and all the while people continue to die early and suffer ill health.”

She welcomed a promise to deliver the country’s first low-emission zone by 2018 but much wider measures are required to deal with illegal levels of pollution in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth.

She added: “The Scottish Government is ignoring the fact that Scottish cities are in breach of European legal obligations, which are there to keep the public safe from toxic air pollution.

“People in Scotland need to know when and how we will have the clean air to which we are entitled.”

Air pollution is linked to a rise in heart attacks, strokes and lung conditions, including asthma, as well as affecting the development of unborn babies.

Official figures suggest breathing contaminated air leads to 2,500 premature deaths every year in Scotland, part of 40,000 across the UK and seven million globally.

It is the leading environmental health risk around the world, with experts claiming it represents a “public health crisis”.

There are a total of 38 declared pollution zones across Scotland.