Readers' Letters: Moving cars and vans from cities isn't the solution to pollution

Edinburgh Council introduced the LEZ banning non-compliant vehicles from the city centre on 1 June (Picture: Greg Macvean)Edinburgh Council introduced the LEZ banning non-compliant vehicles from the city centre on 1 June (Picture: Greg Macvean)
Edinburgh Council introduced the LEZ banning non-compliant vehicles from the city centre on 1 June (Picture: Greg Macvean)
Edinburgh City Council’s new LEZ scheme is a selfish affair, says reader

As the 20th jumbo jet of the day rocks the roof of my house in Prestonpans, I can at least console myself that all is at peace in our neighbouring low emission zone (LEZ), that little enclave of green zealotry surrounding Edinburgh city centre. The boundaries of this sacred sanctuary also dovetail nicely with the airport’s no-fly zone, hence the jets roaring overhead here.

Anything that Edinburgh Council finds inconvenient about city life, like a marathon or a flight path, they dump in East Lothian. Now they’re turning the suburbs into one large car park as vehicles are displaced from the centre by the LEZ.

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Predictably, commuters with non-compliant cars are parking in surrounding towns and completing their journey on public transport. This raises the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in towns like mine.

I support efforts to improve air quality for all Scots, but shifting NO2 from the city centre to the suburbs isn’t progress. Just slapping a trendy emissions zone up to shift the pollution elsewhere is simply selfish. Improving health in the city is a welcome initiative but missing is a serious investment in public transport to maintain access.

I don’t particularly like driving; I do around 5,000 miles a year, but when I need the car out here in the sticks… I need it. Where alternatives exist they are slow (bus), expensive (train) and too infrequent (train).

There are essential medical services in Edinburgh that now can’t be reached within the LEZ: pushing my elderly parents on and off a bus on a three-hour round trip isn’t feasible. The capital railway station, Waverley, is also cut off for early and late travellers who have no inbound/outbound options.

So why don’t I bite the bullet and “just” buy a new car that can enter the LEZ? Too tight, probably, but many drivers are struggling just to pay the latest hike in insurance.

There is another, greener, reason to remain non-compliant: a large proportion of the carbon dioxide produced by a car over its lifetime is in its manufacture. Scrapping a working car to buy a low-emission variant is environmentally wasteful. But that doesn’t trouble Scotland’s green brigade when the real game is flaunting their luxury beliefs and curtailing economic growth. Cities emerged to smooth transportation and ease commerce for all – they are designed to be busy. This reality is being warped at the expense of working people, who have no credible alternative other than to drive an older car.

I wish our politicians would read more before signing off on the latest green fad. Something like Ed Conway’s brilliant book Material World, which explains the complex trade-offs in decarbonising the economy would be a start.

If only a book festival existed to challenge established political wisdom. Unfortunately our enlightened environmental lobby is busy burning book forums, by torching the reputation of the sponsors. Nicola Sturgeon needs to publish her autobiography soon otherwise there’ll be no stage left to hear her apology for the unthinking state of Scotland.

Calum Miller, Prestonpans, East Lothian

Badly trained

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If there is one facet that encapsulates how much of a giant kick up the backside our society is long overdue, it is behaviour on trains.There's always been people putting bags on the aisle side seat beside them, but most have zero issues moving them when asked. The ones sitting in the aisle side seat with their bag on the window seat are another matter, and I've yet to encounter one that wasn't a full fat prima donna.

But there has now developed a caste that think a standard ticket gives them the automatic right to all four seats in their berth, and woe betide those having the audacity to think otherwise. From stretching their legs to block seats opposite to outright passive aggressiveness during the journey to try tomake you uncomfortable enough to leave, I've encountered such behaviour far too often of late.

What's so disturbing is that the perpetrators are not the ubiquitous “weirdo” hazard of all public transport from trains to planes, but respectable types of advanced years – those old enough to know better.

The last I encountered tried to drag other passengers into a situation she'd instigated, and it was only by saying loudly and pointedly that appealing to the mob cut no ice with me that surrounding smartphones were hastily put away as thoughts of 15 minutes of social media clickbait cash dissipated amongst the hoi polloi.(The woman blotted her copybook with the mob shortly after, overplaying her hand by wondering aloud as I was getting off it I was one of those “autists” disparagingly – to which a passenger with an autistic child objected.)

Mark Boyle, Johnstone, Renfrewshire

Friends today

Hilary J Cameron, who objected to Chancellor Olaf Scholz being at the D-Day ceremonials, really ought to come into the 21st century. German Chancellors have been invited to attend since 2004 (Letters. 11 June).

My father was in the RAF for the whole of the Second World War and he always said, “We knew we were fighting against the German government, not the German people”. Germans have long recognised that the D-Day invasion was the beginning of their own liberation from the Nazi regime which led them, via nationalist lies and fantasies, down the road to disaster. Nationalism, wherever, whenever and in whatever guise it raises its ugly head, is always some steps on the way to fascism.

Bill Cooper, Kinross, Perth and Kinross

European farce

I was bewildered by Alex Orr’s letter (8 June) about the importance he placed on the European elections currently underway. Mr Orr referred to the democratic relevance of previous EU elections, in which UK citizens were eligible to vote, and expressed regret that British voters no longer participate in this vital exercise in democracy.

A quick review of EU elections conducted between 1999 and 2019 shows that the overall turnout across the entire European Union, in each of the five elections during this period, was barely 50 per cent of the total eligible electorate. The highest turnout was in 2019 (50.62 per cent), with the lowest being in 2014 (42.61 per cent). By contrast, in those same two years, the electoral turnout for these same European elections in the UK was just 37.2 per cent and 35.6 per cent respectively. Indeed, in the EU elections of 1999, when the overall EU electoral turnout was 49.51 per cent, the turnout across the UK was just 24 per cent of the total electorate. Such was the level of UK voter interest in European elections! In the EU elections of 1979 the SNP garnered just 1.9 per cent of the total UK vote – but it was enough to send one MEP to the European Parliament.

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In my view these statistics simply aren’t representative of a healthy democratic institution. By contrast, in the Brexit referendum of 2016 the overall electoral turnout was 72.2 per cent, and average turnout for UK general elections is usually around 65 per cent.

Mr Orr expressed his concern that the predicted political shift to the right in several EU member states could have a negative impact on an incoming Labour government, across a wide range of sectors – including trade. With respect, even if the UK had remained in the EU a more right wing, hard-line European Parliament could potentially present problems for a left wing Labour government, with perhaps even more unwelcome, unacceptable EU rules and regulations imposed on Keir Starmer’s government through the EU qualified majority vote.

Unfortunately, politicians like Starmer and his ilk refused to accept the democratic will of the people, which is a key reason the full benefits of Brexit have not been realised. But Mr Orr shouldn’t be concerned about the chances of the new Labour Government facing problems from a newly elected, right-leaning EU Parliament over a closer trading relationship with the EU. The European Commission, that unelected, unaccountable undemocratic institution, has already publicly stated that they have no interest in renegotiating any element of the current UK/EU Agreement. The EU Parliament and its MEPs will have no say!

Had the UK opted to trade with the European Union under WTO Rules from the outset, as many Brexiteers wanted, then any change in the composition of the European Parliament would have had minimal impact on our trading relationship.

But being outside the EU means that UK citizens are spared the inconvenience of participating in the farce that is elections for Europe, whose elected representatives cannot initiate any laws. In any case, MEPs vote in the EU Parliament (both of them) according to their allegiance to the European political party with which they are aligned – with no concern for the wishes of the electorate that voted for them.

Democracy in action – I think not!

John Maguire, Kelso, Scottish Borders

McConnell’s lesson

Learning from other people’s mistakes is a fast track to experience. Rishi Sunak could have avoided days of public criticism had he or his team taken note of former Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell’s 2004 gaffe at the time of the 60th anniversary of D Day.

I had lost my father, a D Day veteran, the year before and was deeply offended when it took days of public pressure for McConnell to forego a golf club dinner and take his place on the Normandy beaches with his tail well and truly stuck between his legs.

Tom Hutchison, Moffat, Dumfries & Galloway

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