Scotland’s air pollution is back to dangerous pre-pandemic levels

The UK’s most northerly nation enjoyed historically low air pollution in 2020, but last year points to a very different situation. 

Friends of the Earth Scotland has warned that air pollution in Scotland is once again in breach of legal air quality standards set in 2010, effectively posing a major threat to public health. 

The study focused on two toxic pollutants, both of which are associated with transport. Hope Street, Glasgow, was found to have exceeded the limit for nitrogen oxide, while Edinburgh’s Salamander Street, and Atholl Street in Perth were among the locations beyond the particulate pollution ‘safe zone’.

Calton Hill, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Research also points to consistent failures in bringing air pollution down to levels deemed acceptable long before the pandemic began. 2020 is the only year in the last decade where the country met air quality standards.

 ‘Air pollution from transport is responsible for thousands of premature deaths in Scotland every year and causes serious heart and lung issues. The growing evidence base showing the links between air pollution and vulnerability to Covid-19 is only the latest reason why we have to act,’ said Gavin Thomson, Friends of the Earth Scotland’s transport campaigner.

‘The Low Emission Zones (LEZ) being introduced will not restrict private cars until summer 2024. Meanwhile, with pollution spiking in Perth, we should be asking why only four cities in Scotland are introducing LEZs,’ he continued. 

Currently, plans are underway to roll out LEZs in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh. Proposals for the capital have already come under fire after the scope was significantly reduced. Initially, the intention was to have a city-wide scheme focused on larger vehicles, with a smaller area where high polluting cars would also be included. At the time of writing, this has been narrowed to a single zone within the Old Town only. Last year, campaign groups also voiced concerns over the Cleaner Air for Scotland plan, published in October 2020. 


Image credit: Adam Wilson



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2 years ago

The study focuses on two toxic pollutants, both attributed to transport. Is this the only source or do the pollutants also emanate from the countless unabated combustion plant that we come across every day?
We clean the air you breath with our abatement solution, Renewable Engineering are hot gas filtration specialists able to reduce dust to atmosphere to less than 2mg/NM3 in a combustion process. Through our continuous R&D process, we are also on the verge of solving the NOx challenge we all face.
Emission limit values have been reduced in recent years from 90 mg/NM3 to 50 mg/NM3. We firmly believe this is still too high and continues to have a detrimental effect on our health.

Last edited 2 years ago by Pete
2 years ago

Unfortunately the Elephant in the room is yet again being ignored. The Wood Burning stove is also contributing to PM2.5 particle pollution. Its a very easy fix, ban wood stoves in areas served by gas. Many stoves are being used as a trendy secondary heat source.

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