0609 GMT October 16, 2019
Last October, World Health Organization testing found that Glasgow was one of the most polluted areas in the UK, with poorer air quality than London, Manchester and Cardiff. Public Health England estimates the equivalent of 300 lives are lost in the city every year due to air pollution, theguardian.com reported.
The Scottish National party made national and local manifesto commitments to tackle the problem, with the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, announcing at her party conference last autumn that the first low emissions zone was planned for Glasgow by the end of 2018, with zones in Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh due in 2020.
Friends of the Earth Scotland is furious that Glasgow city council’s proposals would apply to only 20 percent of buses by the end of the year, would fail to catch dirty vans and lorries and make no provision for signs to indicate that the zone exists or cameras to catch offenders.
Describing the plans as a ‘no-ambition zone’, Friends of the Earth’s Scotland air pollution campaigner, Emilia Hanna, said: “Councilors must recommend these proposals be significantly improved when they discuss them next week or they will have failed the people of Glasgow who suffer daily from the health impacts of air pollution. What Glasgow does also sets the benchmark for the LEZs to come in Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh in 2020, so it is critical to set the bar high.
“A low emission zone should keep polluting vehicles out of the most polluted places. Not only will the planned zone fail to catch dirty vans and lorries but it will only apply to a tiny fraction of buses. A low emission zone which has no signs to mark it, no new cameras to catch offenders and continues to allow almost every dirty vehicle into the city center, is not a low emission zone.”
Hanna believes that lobbying by the bus industry may have weakened the proposals. She said: “The bitter irony is that the Scottish government has already allocated more than £10 million for developing LEZs and at least £10 million in loans for companies to buy cleaner buses, which is enough to retrofit or replace every older bus in Glasgow by the end of 2018.”
The Scottish government set its own target date for compliance with EU safety standards by 2020, having missed an earlier deadline in 2010 because of Glasgow’s high levels of NO2 pollution.
While air quality is currently devolved, there is a great deal of uncertainty about whether the EU withdrawal bill will adequately retain EU air quality directives, and whether aspects of environmental policy will be once again be reserved to Westminster.