Scottish air pollution fell to legal limits in 2020, study finds

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Scotland met legal air pollution limits for the first time last year, according to research by environmental campaigning organisation Friends of the Earth Scotland.

According to its data from 2020, air pollution levels across Scotland fell dramatically, achieving targets for the first time since legal limits came into force in 2010.

However, researchers said the decline was driven by commuters working from home during the coronavirus pandemic and these improvements would be short lived.

Gavin Thomson, Friends of the Earth Scotland’s air pollution campaigner, said: ‘It’s a huge pity that it took a deadly pandemic to bring our air quality within legal limits.

“Scotland’s car-choked transport system was brought to a halt in spring, and this is why our annual averages of pollution are much lower than in previous years.

“Any improvements in air quality in Scotland have been short-lived with traffic quickly returning to pre-pandemic levels.”

The campaign group said pollution damaged health through long-term exposure and the reduced pollution during the strictest lockdown is unlikely to have many long-term health benefits.

Thomson added: “The health links between air pollution and Covid-19 should push us to redouble our efforts to clean up our air and protect public health.

“The Scottish government’s recently published ‘Cleaner Air for Scotland’ strategy contains very few ideas for reducing polluting traffic and cleaning up our transport system.

“The government and councils must seize this moment to rethink how we plan our towns and cities, and how we move around.”

For a green recovery the organisation called for investment in public transport and more options for safe walking and cycling.

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