Passenger Information – Coronavirus
29 November 2017

Pollution is not just an urban issue

The Highland and Islands must recognise the issue and take action

Inglis Lyon’s article in the latest issue of The Leader magazine drives home the importance of building a sustainable future for generations to come.

It’s not just the obvious big city culprits – with Scotland’s largest city being the biggest offender.  Inglis suggests the Highlands and Islands must not rest on their laurels and proactively develop a sustainable future for one of the most beautiful parts of the world.

Outdoor air pollution is estimated to cause 40,000 premature deaths across the UK

“Last month it emerged that Glasgow was reputed to be one of the most polluted cities in the country, with a PM2.5s (sooty particles to you and I), concentration of 16 micrograms per cubic metre.  Exposure to the particles should not exceed 10 micrograms per cubic metre of air, according to the World Health Organisation.

London and Leeds both had 15 micrograms of the particles in every cubic metre-sized parcel of air, while Cardiff, Oxford and Birmingham had 14 and Manchester 13.

Each year, outdoor air pollution is estimated to cause 40,000 premature deaths across the UK – 2,500 of them in Scotland alone – and this costs the country £22.6 billion.  Earlier in September of this year, it was announced that buses lacking the cleanest diesel engines, potentially anything older than Euro 5 buses, would be the first vehicles to be banned from Glasgow city centre under anti-pollution measures due to be introduced next year.

Firms could ultimately lose their operating licences (i.e. their ability to earn money) if they ran other buses through what’s expected to be Scotland’s first low emission zone (LEZ), the city council said.  Curiously, the council has not confirmed when cars, taxis and lorries might face similar restrictions, notwithstanding that three quarters of diesel cars and taxis do not have the same clean burn engines.

In the Highlands, the rural idyll doesn’t lend itself to the built up areas which form part of the conditions required to foster these levels of soot.  However, the emissions still occur, are just as harmful and importantly just as likely to cause material health issues.  The proposed Glasgow solution is incomplete and inconsistent, given the gaps in application.  However it does at the very least recognise the issue and is a step in the right direction.

Our conundrum in the Highlands is convincing ourselves that there is a problem when we drive home watching the sun set over the Beauly Firth, watch the boats climb the locks on the canal or listen to the comments from our visitors who constantly remind us that we are lucky to live here and of course we are.

The easy option is do nothing, assume it will all come out in the wash and that it will be the responsibility of others.  But do something we must.  We cannot leave the stewardship of the local environment to others, we cannot wait until the issues of Glasgow migrate north of Perth, nor can we continue to trade on the quality of our fresh air and of the view without taking steps to preserve them.

Our sustainable future lies in developing our infrastructure such that it provides truly aspirational public transport, a communications infrastructure that’s the envy of the civilised world, planning which minimises the demand for non-essential travel and at the heart of everything we do a commitment to decarbonise our local economy.

Visitors to the region love our hospitality, our golf, our whisky, our scenery and local produce.  Becoming a beacon of best practice for the environmental stewardship of the region will ensure it’s there for those that follow.  Not my responsibility – ours.”