We know that Scotland has high rates of COPD, which is why we are working with our clinical experts and key partners, such as the British Lung Foundation and Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland, to develop a respiratory health plan for Scotland. The plan will include the key priorities of prevention, diagnosis, treatment and research in relation to respiratory conditions, including COPD, and it will build on the work of the “COPD Best Practice Guide”, which was published in November last year.
It is my understanding that under the Environment Act 1995 local authorities have a duty to designate areas where air quality objectives are not being met as air quality management areas. Currently, no air quality management areas are identified in Dumfries and Galloway. That will be kept under review, to ensure that we make the most efficient use of limited resources, such as our network of high-precision and real-time air quality monitors, by focusing our attention on areas of concern.
As the minister might be aware, Stranraer has not only the highest levels of COPD in Scotland but the highest levels in the world. An Interreg project called the BREATH—Border and regions airways training hub—project is currently investigating the reasons behind that high incidence. Can the Scottish Government outline how it might help the BREATH project to establish a centre of excellence in Stranraer?
I recognise the interest that the member takes in the issue and I am aware of the BREATH project. Scotland participates in the Interreg VA cross-border programme 2014-2020 with Northern Ireland and the border region of Ireland, and the eligible areas for Scotland are regions in the Western Isles and the west of Scotland. We will maintain a real interest in the BREATH project as it progresses, to ensure that we get the best evidence on how much more we can do to help to support people in areas with a high incidence of COPD. We want to ensure that we recognise the learning that can be got from projects such as the BREATH project, to enable us to tackle COPD across the country.