Scottish Government may need to review air pollution strategy, warns environmental lawyer
UK Government's High Court defeat could force review of Cleaner Air for Scotland strategy
The Scottish Government may need to review its air quality strategy following the UK Government’s defeat in an air pollution case at the High Court, an environmental lawyer has warned.
The High Court last week ordered the UK Government to outline its air pollution strategy in May, after a failed bid by ministers to delay its publication until after the general election.
With the European Commission issuing the UK with a ‘final warning’ over illegal levels of air pollution back in February following a case brought by Client Earth, Mr Justice Garnham said the Government’s plans for tackling the issue must be produced on 9 May, despite ministers’ pleas, with the final draft to be finished by 31 July.
The UK Government is facing the prospect of a class action law suit over its repeated failures to tackle illegal levels of air pollution.
Appearing in front of the Scottish Parliament Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, a lawyer from Client Earth warned the decision could have implications for Scotland’s air pollution strategy.
With the Scottish Government’s ‘Cleaner Air for Scotland’ plan making up part of the overall UK air strategy, lawyer Anna Heslop told the committee: “I am very surprised that, following the High Court judgement in November last year, there was no review of the Scottish plan. I very much hope that Scottish Government ministers have been discussing with their colleagues at Westminster what ought to go into the new, revised air quality plan, but I am not aware of what has been going on behind the scenes.
“It is my understanding that the cleaner air for Scotland strategy is not currently under review. The new air quality plans that were ordered by the High Court in November were due to come out last Monday. They will now come out on 9 May, and it will be disappointing if Scotland’s ambition is not increased.”
The appeal by UK ministers to delay draft guidelines came days before the original deadline of 24th April, with government lawyers arguing the release would fall foul of “purdah” rules, representing a “controversial bomb” for the Government.
Committee convener Graeme Dey told Holyrood: “We really have a lot of thinking to do around this [air pollution], and so too does government – both local and national, and at a UK level. Certainly we will need to explore the implications of the High Court ruling, obviously for the UK Government and the actions it will need to take, and then what implications that has for Scotland.”
He added: “We don’t know what conversations have or haven’t taken place. I think it is self-evident that is an area we will need to explore with the Scottish Government. It would appear to have implications for us up here.”
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