A ‘car sick’ nation with air pollution highlighted as Scotland’s ‘silent killer’

Baby in pushchair beside car exhaust fumes.

Baby in pushchair beside car exhaust fumes.

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A BBC Scotland documentary to be aired tonight (Wednesday) highlights the public health cost of our love of cars, showing how air pollution leads to heart problems and at least 2000 early deaths.

The BBC’s investigation also found that Dundee, Edinburgh and Aberdeen were not using existing powers to stop and fine polluting vehicles.

Friends of the Earth Scotland is calling on the Finance Secretary to increase the spending on active travel - walking and cycling - in next year’s budget.

The funding would be necessary to tackle the high levels of air pollution which persist across many parts of Scotland. Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, 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. “Tonight’s BBC documentary shows just how damaging cars are to our health and confirms air pollution as one of the biggest silent killers in Scotland.

“Last year the Scottish Government was ordered by the UK Supreme Court to increase its efforts to tackle air pollution but instead we see even more money poured into building motorways and trunk roads.

“The draft budget includes a massive £820 million for road building with only £40m left for walking and cycling paths. The current budget allocations are irresponsible and reckless if this Government wants to address traffic, the root cause of our air pollution problem.

“The Scottish Government says that it wants more people to walk and cycle, but if it is serious about this then it has to put its money where its mouth is. It cannot simply expect more people to walk and cycle when our pavements are broken and cycle paths still non-existent in many areas.

“The Netherlands and Denmark provide clear proof that investing in active travel reaps huge health, social and economic benefits. In the long term the Government must spend 10 per cent of its transport budget on walking and cycling. This year, we are calling for it to reallocate a further one per cent of the roads and motorway budget to active transport in addition to its existing commitments.”

On the cities’ lack of action over polluting vehicles, Hanna commented: “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.

“The Government should work with councils to make sure the skills and resources are available to allow these powers to be used effectively.”

The BBC Scotland documentary ‘Car Sick’, airs tonight (Wednesday, January 13) on BBC 1 at 7.30pm.