Member of the Scottish Parliament highlights high pollution levels in Edinburgh and calls for increased efforts to tackle air pollution in Scottish cities
More needs to be done to tackle the increasing numbers of streets in Edinburgh that are failing air quality standards, according to a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP).
In a motion put forward in the Scottish Parliament, Scottish National Party MSP for Edinburgh Central, Marco Biagi, called for action to tackle air quality problems in the city.
According to the motion, areas such as Grassmarket, Easter Road and Gorgie Road as well as major streets such as Princes Street and the Royal Mile have been designated Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) as a consequence of air pollution. Great Junction Street, Inverleith Row and Glasgow Road in Corstorphine have also been designated as AQMAs.
The motion welcomes action taken by Edinburgh city council which has ‘sharply reduced levels of nitrogen dioxide in recent years’, but emphasises still that ‘more needs to be done to reduce other pollutants to a safe level’.
The motion states: “The Parliament notes with concern the increase in the number of streets in Edinburgh that are failing minimum air quality standards,â€? adding: “more needs to be done to reduce levels of other pollutants to a safe level and to prevent the spread of the air pollution problem across more of the city, and hopes that Edinburgh’s air quality can be improved so that everyone who lives, works and visits the city can have confidence in the air that they breathe.â€?
This comes after environmental campaigners published a list of the most polluted streets in Scotland and criticised the Scottish Government and local authorities for not doing enough to tackle the problem (see airqualitynews.com story).
The motion, on which a vote has not yet been taken, was lodged by Mr Biagi on April 26 and followed by a question in the Scottish Parliament last week (May 9), in which the MSP asked what action the Scottish Government was taking to tackle air pollution in cities such as Edinburgh.
Mr Biagi said: “What support can Edinburgh—the local authority and citizens—expect from the Scottish Government in addressing the problem?â€?
Scottish minister for environment and climate change, Paul Whitehouse, answered that the Scottish Government was “working closely with local authorities, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and other partners to improve air quality in citiesâ€?.
He pointed to the establishment of a statutory framework for air quality and transport, as well as grant funding for local authority actions and information on the Scottish air quality website as examples of the Scottish Government’s work to tackle air quality – adding that it had provided financial support for air quality monitoring in Edinburgh.
Mr Whitehouse said: “We are committed to improving air quality across the country, and there have been significant reductions in pollution emissions over recent decades through tighter industrial regulation, improved fuel quality, cleaner vehicles and an increased focus on sustainable transport.â€?
He added: “In addition, through the future transport fund and other measures, we aim to reduce the impact of transport on our environment. That will support a range of initiatives around sustainable transport, including cycling infrastructure and low-carbon vehicle technology. The Scottish green bus fund… will also support the transition to low-carbon public transport.â€?
In a response to another question from Jamie McGrigor, Conservative MSP for Highlands and Islands, about whether planting trees could help to mitigate levels of some air pollutants, Mr Whitehouse praised Fife council for working to plant 500,000 trees in Lothian and Fife in order to combat emissions.
Mr Whitehouse said: “I recognise the important role that tree planting in urban areas can play in that regard.â€?
Mr Biagi’s motion and question are both available on the Scottish Parliament website.