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Environmental experts quit clean air strategy group

The Scottish Environment Link members resigned amid frustration and disappointment over a lack of progress.

Environmental experts have quit a group set up to oversee ministers’ strategy for tackling air pollution, citing frustration and deep disappointment over a lack of progress.

Scottish Environment Link members resigned from the Cleaner Air for Scotland Governance Group (CAFSGG) after raising concerns around “commitment, ambition and urgency” and following “poor input” into plans for Scotland’s first low emission zone (LEZ) in Glasgow.

Friends of the Earth Scotland campaigner Emilia Hanna and Professor James Curran represented Link – the forum which brings together environmental organisations – on the governance group.

In their resignation letter, they said: “We want Scotland’s air quality to be legally compliant as soon as possible, in line with Scotland’s obligations under European law and in line with the continued urgent and pressing need to stop preventable early death and ill-health for exposed populations.

“It is clear to us that continuing to be represented on the CAFSGG is no longer an effective route for us to pursue that aim.”

Their decision to quit comes after further details of the Glasgow LEZ were revealed.

The zone will come into effect at the start of 2019, initially cracking down on bus pollution.

All vehicles will be required to be compliant with restricted emissions in the area by the end of 2022.

Campaigners said the plans were not ambitious enough.

Professor James Curran said: “We had no alternative but to resign.

“For two years we made every effort to inject ambition and urgency into the creation of the first LEZ. In the end we’re deeply disappointed.”

Ms Hanna said: “Getting the policies right to tackle air pollution is literally a matter of life and death, but there was very little sense of urgency on the Cleaner Air for Scotland Governance Group.”

She added: “It is vital that the Glasgow LEZ tackles cars, vans, lorries, and taxis as well as just buses, because we know that a bus-only LEZ would fail to deliver all the necessary improvements in air quality required to achieve clean air.

“But the group ignored our calls to build evidence for and around a wide-reaching LEZ and as a result, the original Glasgow plan was unacceptably timid.”

Scottish Labour’s environment spokeswoman Claudia Beamish said: “This is a real blow to the SNP’s environmental credentials, but it is unsurprising as there is huge frustration at the Government’s lack of urgency around tackling air pollution – it seems to be failing to take the impact on public health seriously.”

A spokeswoman said the Scottish Government was “fully committed to protecting the public from the harmful effects of air pollution”.

“We are disappointed that SELink has decided to resign from the Cleaner Air for Scotland governance group,” she said.

“Success requires collaboration across a number of different interests if we are to produce the best outcomes for Scotland and the group has provided valuable input into the development of low emission zones and other parts of the strategy’s delivery.”

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