CITY chiefs have been accused of “complacency” over air pollution after it was revealed the Capital makes no use of powers to carry out roadside emissions tests on vehicles.
Edinburgh Greens’ environment spokesman Chas Booth said the Labour-SNP coalition seemed to be “paying lip service” to the issue despite the city having some of the most polluted streets in the country.
And he is expected to table an emergency motion at today’s meeting of the transport and environment committee, calling for a report on how the council can meet European pollution limits and why it is not using its vehicle testing powers.
A documentary screened by the BBC last night found that only 13 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities carry out roadside emissions testing. The tests involve diesel vehicles revving their engines and in petrol vehicles, sample probes being inserted into exhaust tailpipes. Drivers can be issued with fixed penalty notices if they fail the tests, though the fine is waived if drivers have the defect fixed within two weeks.
Councillor Booth said: “The lack of testing is symptomatic of Edinburgh’s complacency and lack of proactive action in tackling air pollution. The links between poor air quality and ill health are clear.
“The council seems to be paying lip service to the issue. Greens have consistently pushed for more action on air pollution, and have been consistently rebuffed.
“We now need to see specific and focused action to tackle this serious problem.
“If Edinburgh doesn’t want to use its roadside testing powers it needs to come forward with alternative suggestions to combat the problem, including looking at low emission zones, which we suggested as long ago as 2013.
“More fundamentally, the city needs to start looking at the causes of air pollution when it is weighing up major planning or development proposals.”
Friends of the Earth said air pollution was one of the biggest silent killers in Scotland.
FoE Scotland campaigner Emilia Hanna said: “Traffic-related air pollution continues to be a public health crisis in Scotland, increasing the risk of asthma attacks, strokes, heart attacks, and cancers.
“Getting the most polluting vehicles off the road can make a big difference, so it is disappointing that large councils are not using these powers.”
But Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone said since emissions testing was now part of the MOT test, it could be argued that roadside testing was no longer the best approach.
He claimed it was “only reasonable” that cash-strapped councils should be allowed to set their own priorities.
He said: “I believe local authorities and the Scottish Government could better achieve air quality improvements by prioritising road surface and traffic measures rather than pandering to the green lobby.”
Transport and environment convener Lesley Hinds insisted the council was committed to tackling poor air quality and cited the introduction of hybrid buses and the ECOstars fleet recognition scheme for lorries.
She said: “Local authorities make use of a variety of ways to improve air quality and reduce emissions, choosing the most appropriate tools where necessary to make an impact and reduce emissions.”