Scottish Government accused of showing "remarkable disregard for public health” on air pollution

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 26 July 2017 in News

Environmental groups accuse UK Government of “kicking urgently needed action into the long grass” with plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040

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Environmental groups have accused the UK Government of “kicking urgently needed action into the long grass” with its plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.

Plans to tackle air pollution in Scotland also came under fire, with Friends of the Earth Scotland saying the strategy unveiled by Scottish ministers showed “a remarkable disregard for public health”.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove yesterday announced plans to ban the sale of polluting vehicles by 2040 as part of the UK’s clean air plan.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the move, which aims to reduce the health damage caused by air pollution while also helping to mitigate climate change caused by transport emissions, showed the Government was “determined to deliver a green revolution”.


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But the scale of ambition came under fire from campaigners, with FoE Scotland describing air pollution as a “public health crisis which is killing thousands of people early every year” and branding the announcement “simply not good enough”.

Meanwhile WWF Scotland called for a more ambitious plan, saying “the clean-up needs to happen much faster”.

Both groups called on the Scottish Government to phase out the sale of polluting cars and vans by 2030.

The Federation of Small Businesses also raised questions over the announcement, pointing out that businesses had bought diesel cars based on government advice and warning the UK announcement is “light on the detail and still leaves many small businesses in the dark”.

The UK Government has been involved in a long-running legal battle with environmental group Client Earth over dangerously high levels of air pollution, with the High Court recently ordering ministers to publish their draft clean air strategy.

The Scottish Government published its own Cleaner Air for Scotland strategy to outline its role in meeting UK-wide targets.

There are 38 Pollution Zones in Scotland, with emissions thought to cause over 2,500 early deaths each year.

But an update on the Scottish plans, published today, also faced strong criticism from environmentalists, with FoE Scotland accusing the Scottish Government of showing “a remarkable disregard for public health by its highly unambitious plans”.

Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner for FoE Scotland said: “In spite of a court ruling last year which demanded improved plans, Ministers are serving up practically the same old proposals, which simply don’t go far enough. This continued foot-dragging and time wasting will cost thousands of lives.

“In the updated plans the Scottish Government has reaffirmed its commitment to introduce only one Low Emission Zone next year, but failed to detail how the Zone will be funded and where it will be. One Low Emission Zone is simply not enough, because there are 14 Councils with unsafe levels of toxic air.  For the many people whose lives are impacted by dirty air on a daily basis this lack of ambition is unacceptable.”

Gina Hanrahan, acting head of policy at WWF Scotland said: “This is welcome news from the UK Government, but the clean-up needs to happen much faster. That’s why we’re calling on the Scottish Government to include the phase out of new diesel and petrol cars by 2030, ten years earlier than proposed by Westminster, in the forthcoming Climate Change Bill.  Ending the dominance of fossil fuel vehicles will reduce emissions, clean up our polluted air and tackle a public health crisis.”

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham last month said more must be done to tackle air pollution.

She said: “A year on and the package of actions set out in Scotland’s first clean air strategy is clearly helping people and encouraging them to think about ways of improving the quality of air in our communities. But we can’t be complacent and recognise much more needs to be done."

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