Scottish Government criticised over low-emission zone plans

Plans to install a low emissions zone have been criticised. Picture; PA
Plans to install a low emissions zone have been criticised. Picture; PA
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An environmental organisation has questioned the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce a low-emission zone in just one city.

ClientEarth has written to the Government calling for “urgent clarification” on cleaner air plans as it said three Scottish cities are forecast to have pollution out-with legal limits until at least 2020.

The letter welcomes the proposal for a low-emission zone in 2018 in one Scottish city but seeks further details on action across the rest of Scotland.

The environmental law organisation, which has twice successfully challenged the UK Government’s response to illegal air pollution levels, said UK Government figures project Glasgow will have illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide until 2024, while both Aberdeen and Edinburgh will hit the legal limit by 2020.

READ MORE: Scottish Government urged to ban petrol cars by 2030

Detailed proposals for the country’s first low-emission zone are expected later this month, but ClientEarth claims it is currently not clear where the first zone will be or how legal limits will be met elsewhere.

ClientEarth lawyer Anna Heslop said: “We’ve written to the Scottish Government to ask for urgent clarification of their plans. We’re confused as to why their plans contain measures that will only help people in one Scottish city.

“We want to know what the First Minister will do to protect people across Scotland, in all the places where people are suffering from breathing toxic air.

“We hope that they can provide us with some reassurance that the measures they plan to take will bring pollution down to within legal limits as soon as possible all over Scotland, not just in one place.”

ClientEarth is calling for a national network of low-emission zones to keep the dirtiest diesel vehicles out of the UK’s most polluted urban areas and has given the Scottish Government 14 days to reply to the letter.

Emilia Hanna, an air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “ClientEarth are absolutely right to ask the Scottish Government why they are proposing only one low-emission zone when illegal and dangerous levels of pollution continue to plague many towns and cities in Scotland, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth.

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“The Scottish Government needs to finalise the details of its first low-emission zone straight away and needs to commit to introducing low-emission zones in all Scottish cities with illegal air pollution.”

She also called on the Government to do more to make transport “cleaner and fairer” as air pollution is mainly caused by traffic.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Scotland has made good progress in tackling air pollution, but we acknowledge there are still specific areas of our towns and cities where levels are too high.

“That’s why the Scottish Government has plans in place to make further progress and has already set more stringent air quality targets than the rest of the UK.

“We acknowledge the important role which low-emissions zones can play, and we are working to have Scotland’s first low-emission zone in place next year.

“We are the first country in Europe to legislate for particulate matter 2.5 - a pollutant of special concern for human health - and we are providing support to local authorities, including £3 million a year to help tackle air pollution hotspots.”