Air quality: MSPs urge Scottish Government to launch full review of approach to active travel

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 28 February 2018 in News

There are currently 39 pollution zones in Scotland, which have been declared by councils to be at risk of dangerous levels of air pollution

MSPs have called on the Scottish Government to launch a full review of its approach to active travel, after a new report from the Environment Committee pointed to lacklustre progress in increasing the number of journeys taken by bike as an obstacle in tackling dangerous levels of air pollution.

A new report on air quality, based on a committee inquiry, states that a minimum 10 per cent of journeys should be on bike for Scotland to meet air quality targets, while highlighting figures showing the percentage of bike journeys rose by just 0.2 per cent between 2010 and 2016.

Meanwhile, with car use identified as a major contributor towards air pollution, members of the Environment Committee also expressed concern over falling numbers of bus passengers over the last five years.

The report recommends that private cars should be included in LEZs, but questions whether local authorities have the technical and financial resources to ensure they are fully operational by 2018.

The Committee raised diesel emissions as a major contributor to poor air quality, with MSPs urging the Scottish Government to provide a clear timeline for how it intends to phase out petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032, including any regulations or incentives.

There are currently 39 pollution zones in Scotland, which have been declared by councils to be at risk of dangerous levels of air pollution. The number rose from 35 in 2015.

Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee Convener, Graeme Dey MSP, said: “Poor air quality remains an issue in a number of our towns and cities across Scotland, and effective change is needed now so that all of us can breathe clean air and lead healthy lives in the future.

 “While we recognise that the Scottish Government has ambitious targets to tackle pollution, we have questions on whether the necessary support is going to be in place to achieve these.

“For example, while we support low emission zones and the phasing out of cars to stop toxic and traffic-choked streets, we are seeking clarity on how this will be delivered.”

Air pollution is thought to contribute to 2,500 early deaths in Scotland each year, and an estimated 40,000 throughout the UK annually.

Emilia Hanna, Air Pollution Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “This is a very welcome report from a key Holyrood Committee, which questions the lack of urgency of action on air pollution in Scotland and calls for more rapid delivery on the ground if the Scottish Government is to make progress on its goal of meeting EU air quality standards by 2020. People continue to die in their thousands because we are failing to meet these standards.

“The Committee highlights a range of transport interventions which could help tackle pollution, including Low Emission Zones, parking levies and further details on the phase out of petrol and diesel cars and vans. The Committee calls on the Scottish Government to explore congestion charging and workplace parking levies, and to invest in cycling infrastructure to increase the proportion of journeys made by bike to 10% and beyond.”

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