Calls for free buses after Scots air pollution rise

Air quality in central Scotland is at a three-year low. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Air quality in central Scotland is at a three-year low. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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AIr pollution levels spiked to a three-year high across much of central and north-east Scotland on Tuesday night, prompting calls for public transport to be made free until air quality improves.

Environmental campaigners warned that increased pollution levels would result in increased hospital admissions, and said sufferers of asthma and other respiratory conditions should follow Scottish Government advice to avoid outdoor exertion.

This type of pollution kills 2,000 people in Scotland every year

Emilia Hanna

Analysts at environmental consultancy Ricardo-AEA, which compiles data from Scottish air quality testing sites, confirmed that the concentration of dangerous particulates in the air had reached its worst level since August 2012.

A weather front bringing in dirty air from western Europe contributed to make the current “pollution episode” one of the worst in years, with winds carrying airborne particles of fertilizer, according to Ricardo-AEA environmental scientist Dr Stuart Sneddon.

Stable weather and calm winds were also blamed for raising pollution levels.

The worst pollution levels were recorded in West Lothian, with particulate levels in Broxburn reaching 76 micrograms per cubic metre of air, more than 50 per cent above the permitted EU daily average.

Friends of the Earth Scotland said car exhaust was the biggest contributor to smog levels in Scottish cities, and called on the Scottish Government and local authorities to follow the example of authorities in France, where a similar alert in Paris last year led to public transport fares being suspended to reduce emissions.

Campaigner Emilia Hanna said: “Pollution from road traffic is the key cause of this current air pollution episode. During an episode like this, asthmatics are more prone to an attack and we may see an increase in hospital admissions for respiratory conditions and heart attacks. This type of pollution kills more than 2,000 people every year in Scotland.

“In France, urgent action has been taken, with free public transport announced for everyone in Paris to discourage car use. The Scottish Government needs to look at similar action to protect people’s health here.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Data shows that significant reductions in air pollutants have been achieved since 1990 and further decreases are predicted in the future. We recognise that air pollution disproportionately affects the most vulnerable members of society – the very young, the elderly and those with existing cardiovascular and respiratory conditions.

“Our low emission strategy, currently out for consultation, proposes further action to reduce air pollution; enhancing the quality of life for communities across Scotland, with a focus on progress in Scottish towns and cities.”