‘Urgent action’ needed to clean up Scotland’s air further

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Further action is required to support efforts to improve the quality of air in Scotland, an analysis led University of Stirling academics has found.

The report, published by the Scottish Government, is a review of the 2015 Cleaner Air for Scotland Strategy. It was produced by a multi-partner steering group of 10 experts, chaired by Stirling Honorary Professor Campbell Gemmell, with contributions from Dr Annalisa Savaresi, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Law in the University’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

Commenting on the report’s recommendations, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “With Scotland performing well by global standards, it is clear that our current strategy has had a positive impact by raising the profile of air pollution and helping to facilitate constructive stakeholder engagement. So while I welcome this report, I am under no illusions that there is still more to be done as we progress towards our 2020 targets.


“We will now take the time to consider the review’s recommendations in detail before formally responding following a public consultation to gather wider views. In the meantime, I would like to thank Professor Gemmell and his team for their hard work and look forward to discussing this with him in due course.”

Professor Gemmell said: “This was a big team effort to review a wide range of aspects of air pollution. Good progress has been made but much more is needed.

“Particulates and NOx from the transport sector as well as agricultural ammonia and domestic heating emissions remain major challenges and need targeted effort.

“The health impacts of air pollution are potentially severe and we must double down on taking coherent action. The report stresses co-ordinated effort across local and Scottish government to provide leadership and practical support to move us forward to a cleaner, healthier future.”

The report:

  • assessed progress against the Strategy and made recommendations on how to maintain this
  • focussed on the need for integrated strategies across central and local government
  • advocated for improved use of data and behavioural research to encourage people to stop travelling via individual cars and other polluting transport modes
  • highlighted the importance of designing new developments, such as roads and shopping centres, in a way that protects against environmental and health impacts

The experts also noted that continued robust environmental regulation will be needed, including to tackle under-regulated areas such as ammonia emissions from agriculture, which have not fallen, and the growing impact of domestic wood-burning stoves and gas heating.

Support for the shift towards more sustainable transport modes is also called for, including clean buses, electric vehicles, alternative freight approaches, effective Low Emission Zones, as well as support and effective planning for active travel.

The report also recommended a further examination of progress in three-to-five years, to ensure the Strategy stays on track, especially if medical evidence grows on the links between particles, nitrogen oxides and heart, lung, circulatory and even brain impacts.

Read more about the report on the University's Public Policy Blog

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