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British Lung Foundation condemns ‘watering down’ of Low Emission Zones proposals

Edinburgh rush hour - Chris Hill CC2.0

British Lung Foundation condemns ‘watering down’ of Low Emission Zones proposals

The British Lung Foundation in Scotland has reacted angrily to amendments to the Transport Bill which would see Low Emission Zones in major cities suspended at night or during major events.

The amendments were put through for consideration at the next stage by MSPs on Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

The Scottish Government has committed to LEZs in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Dundee by 2020 as part of the Transport Bill currently going through parliament. These would restrict access to town centres for heavily polluting vehicles.

All the cities currently have illegal levels of air pollution.

An amendment to ensure LEZs would operate 24/7 was rejected, while another that would allow suspension during “significant” local events was passed. Councils will also be allowed to set vehicle exemptions locally.

Reacting to the votes, Joseph Carter, Head of British Lung Foundation Scotland, said: “For people with lung conditions, tackling air pollution is a matter of life and health.

“You can’t suspend coughing for an event, or fit breathlessness into a 9 to 5 schedule, yet that is precisely what the Committee seem to expect people should do when exposed to toxic air. 

“By watering down core aspects of the Low Emission Zone framework, MSPs have sent out the wrong signal on the importance of LEZs in tackling air pollution.

“It’s incredibly disappointing that the door is now open for local authorities to offer half-baked proposals which fail to make meaningful improvements to air quality in our towns and cities.

“Air pollution is causing a major public health crisis in Scotland and the scale of the crisis needs to be properly recognised. MSPs must urgently reconsider these decisions when the Bill comes back at Stage 3.”

It is thought air pollution contributes to 2,500 early deaths in Scotland each year, and in 2017 the European Commission issued the UK with a ‘final warning’ over illegal levels in towns and cities.

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