Air Pollution (Urban Towns)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 23 November 2023.

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Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

5. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to reduce air pollution levels in urban towns such as Coatbridge. (S6O-02769)

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

Scotland enjoys a high level of air quality and, over the past three decades, levels of the main air pollutants have declined significantly. In 2022, for the first time outside of the Covid-19 lockdown periods, all air quality objectives were achieved in the 98 sites in the Scottish monitoring network, including the air quality management area in Coatbridge.

That has been achieved through tighter regulation, improved fuel quality, cleaner vehicles and an increased focus on sustainable transport. Our cleaner air for Scotland 2 strategy builds on those successes by setting out actions for further reduction of air pollution across Scotland.

Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

T he minister will be aware, and in fact has made mention, of the areas of Whifflet, Shawhead and Kirkshaws in Coatbridge, which were recently prescribed as air quality management areas, as the air quality in those zones did not fall within the legal limits. That is especially relevant for the area around the Shawhead flyover, which is a busy junction that connects Coatbridge and wider Lanarkshire to the M8 motorway. In fact, in 2019, Shawhead recorded an average of 27.17 micrograms per cubic metre of nitrogen dioxide. That was the 33rd highest level in Scotland, with only roads in our major cities having levels above that.

Given that the air pollution is almost exclusively caused by traffic issues, what can the Scottish Government do to ensure that air quality remains at a safe level, especially in the context of increasing traffic levels in areas such as Shawhead, and given that the council there seems to have approved plans for further industrial development at that junction?

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

Our cleaner air for Scotland 2 strategy sets out a series of actions to further reduce emissions from transport sources. In addition, national planning framework 4 sets out our spatial strategy for Scotland’s long-term development.

It is clear that development proposals that are likely to have significant adverse effects on air quality will not be supported. Co-benefits for air quality will also be delivered through policies on tackling the climate and nature crisis, sustainable transport and 20-minute neighbourhoods.

Photo of Mercedes Villalba Mercedes Villalba Labour

The Kingsway in Dundee goes through several of the most deprived communities in the city, and it is used by thousands of vehicles each day. That exposes residents to high levels of air pollution. Transport Scotland’s assessment of a potential bypass suggested that the project would have a positive impact on air quality by taking away 50 per cent of the traffic on the Kingsway. Does the minister recognise the health and environmental benefits that that project could bring to Dundee?

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

Yes, I do. I have an example from my own area in Aberdeenshire. One of the most highly polluted streets in Scotland would have been Market Street in Aberdeen. As a result of the Aberdeen western peripheral route, which the Scottish Government delivered on, a significant amount of traffic has been diverted away from the city of Aberdeen.

The cabinet secretary might be interested in pursuing that issue further with Mercedes Villalba, as I do not have the detail of that particular proposal in front of me.

Photo of Stephanie Callaghan Stephanie Callaghan Scottish National Party

People are understandably seeking more affordable alternatives as the cost of winter heating soars. However, Asthma and Lung UK Scotland has highlighted the negative impacts of domestic burning on respiratory conditions and how domestic burning increases levels of dangerous pollutants, including carcinogenic emissions. Can the minister outline what steps the Scottish Government is taking to raise public awareness of the adverse impacts of domestic burning and any measures that are in place to promote healthy, affordable and environmentally friendly heating methods?

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

Stephanie Callaghan has outlined why ensuring that our air is as clean as possible is a real health priority. In one of the actions in our cleaner air for Scotland 2 strategy, we are working with stakeholders on the development of an air quality public engagement framework. That will include raising public awareness of the impacts of domestic fuel burning. We intend to publish that framework in 2024.