Scottish Environment LINK quits Scottish Government air quality group over “denialism, apathy and foot dragging”

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 26 March 2018 in News

 Cleaner Air for Scotland Governance Group (CAFSGG) was set up to help deliver the Scottish Government’s clean air strategy

Image credit: PA

Scottish Environment LINK has been left with “no alternative” but to resign from the Scottish Government’s air quality governance group, warning that a culture of “denialism, apathy and foot dragging” has meant “missed opportunities and unnecessary loss of life”.

The Cleaner Air for Scotland Governance Group (CAFSGG) was set up to help deliver the Scottish Government’s clean air strategy.

Glasgow, which has repeatedly broken legal air quality limits, was chosen as the first Scottish city to introduce a low emission zone (LEZ) after the plans were announced in the Programme for Government last September.

The city was selected to trial an LEZ – due to be introduced by the end of 2018 – with LEZs then expected to be introduced to every major city by 2020 and to all Air Quality Management Areas by 2023.

But proposals from Glasgow City Council, released last week, faced criticism from Friends of the Earth Scotland after the local authority failed to include a timetable for when it plans to include vans, lorries, cars and taxis in the zone. The LEZ will only cover 20 per cent of buses and will not include cameras to catch offenders.

Scottish Environment LINK Honorary Fellow Professor James Curran said: “We had no alternative but to resign. For two years we made every effort to inject ambition and urgency into the creation of the first LEZ. In the end we're deeply disappointed.

“Recently Scottish Government created an ambitious, strategic and tightly managed national system to tackle flood risk - and now funds it with over £40m per year. Sadly there is no similar determination to tackle air pollution which is directly causing thousands of premature deaths.

“The High Court ordered that air pollution problems must be fixed as fast as possible and that cost can't be used as an excuse. When thousands of people, particularly from deprived communities, are exposed unknowingly to toxic fumes then Government must force vested interests to act - to act responsibly and to act immediately.”

There are currently 39 official pollution zones in Scotland, designated by councils, where air quality is considered to have reached dangerous levels.

FoE Scotland air pollution campaigner Emilia Hanna added: "Air pollution has an enormous death toll in Scotland, with over 2,500 people dying early from toxic fumes every year. Getting the policies right to tackle air pollution is literally a matter of life and death, but there was very little sense of urgency on the Cleaner Air for Scotland Governance Group. It took the group months to take on the task of delivering Low Emission Zones after they were made a ministerial commitment.

“There has been a culture of denial on the group, with members keen to ensure we spoke only about ‘poor air quality’ than ‘air pollution’. Denialism, apathy and foot dragging on the group has meant missed opportunities and unnecessary loss of life from prolonged air pollution. To stay on the group would be to compromise the integrity of Scottish Environment LINK.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson expressed disappointed at the resignations.

She said: "Success requires collaboration across a number of different interests if we are to produce the best outcomes for Scotland and the group has provided valuable input into the development of low emission zones and other parts of the strategy's delivery."

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