The Scottish Government recognises the importance of the environment and its contribution to the quality of life of our communities as well as Scotland’s international image and reputation. The Scottish Government supports delivery of local environmental quality through its establishment of policy frameworks, supporting tools and funding to local authorities and other organisations.
I am pleased to see that an inquiry into air quality has been launched by the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee and that the Scottish Government made a number of commitments last week as part of its new climate change bill. However, three streets in the city of Glasgow were recently named as the most polluted in the country, with a number of schools breaching the 150-metre safe zone. In line with the comments from the British Lung Foundation in Scotland this week regarding the need for the Scottish Government to ensure that councils improve pollution monitoring, particularly outside schools in urban areas and in line with one of the Scottish Conservatives’ plans, what action will the minister take to ensure greater transparency on that, and the recording of data by local authorities?
Local authorities are responsible for air quality in their areas. It is, of course, an issue that is of concern not just to Glasgow but a number of urban areas. I am aware of the streets that are on that list. I understand that for a number of them the pollution is likely to be mitigated as time goes by because of the construction of new motorway, but there are a couple of streets where there are some very particular problems. I am also conscious of the issue around schools, about which there has been considerable publicity this week. There is a deal of work to be done on that, although again, in terms of taking the measurements, we look for local authorities to consider how best they can get that information brought in.
We are introducing an air quality fund to support local authorities with the delivery of air quality action plan transport-based mitigation and I hope that local authorities will have a look at the availability of that. We will obviously have to work with the commercial and bus sectors as well, in respect of their vehicles. There are a great many things that can be done and I very much hope that Glasgow will take up some of the offers that are available.
The doubled funding will basically allow us to expand our programme of building segregated and, by that method, attractive cycle and walking routes in our major cities, and to create environmentally friendly places for people to enjoy. We are also supporting work on the creation of a long-distance cycle and walking route, which I know will be of great interest to many people.
Increased funding will enable us to ensure that the encouragement and support that people need in order to enjoy the new routes is in place, such as the smarter choice, smarter places programme, the cycle friendly communities programme and, perhaps more important, cycle training. Some members may be aware that I recently got on a bicycle for the first time in more decades than I care to remember. It occurred to me that as well as training teenagers how to cycle safely perhaps returner cyclists need a bit of focus.
The cabinet secretary will be well aware that air pollution in Glasgow and the rest of Scotland kills 2,500 people each year. Does she share my view that the solution is clear? It is a four-point plan. We need to support the creation of more low-emission zones, ramp up investment in active travel, as we have just heard, introduce bus regulation, and make 20mph the default speed limit in cities. That plan will tackle climate change, boost active lifestyles and help the economy. Does the cabinet secretary agree?
The 20mph speed limits are a matter for local authorities to consider. I know that Edinburgh, for example, has brought them in already in a number of areas. I cannot speak for every single city, but no doubt consideration is being given to those limits.
David Stewart will be aware from the programme for government that low-emission zones are something to which this Government is very committed. We were already committed to introducing the first one by 2018, but we now want to raise that ambition to committing to low-emission zones in the four biggest cities by 2020 and, where evidence supports them, in other air quality management areas by 2023.
The member will have heard me refer to the consultation on low-emission zones earlier. That will contain a discussion about a number of the sorts of things that he has raised in his question and which will be important to consider. I am not sure that I want to add anything more to what I said on active travel in my previous answer.