Professor Campbell Gemmell to head air quality strategy review

A former head of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency will chair an independent review of the country’s air quality strategy.

Professor Campbell Gemmell will set out actions needed to meet targets as well as making recommendations for future air policy.

Environmental campaigners hope it will lead to greater ambition and action, warning Scotland will not meet air quality targets at the current rate of progress.

The review will examine the impact of Scotland’s air quality strategy Cleaner Air for Scotland, published in 2015, and identify and assess any new evidence and developments.

A steering group will be set up to decide the content of the review.

It is expected to cover transport, industrial, domestic and agricultural emissions as well as health, planning, and relevant business issues.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced the review while meeting researchers at the the British Heart Foundation Centre of Research Excellence in Edinburgh.

She said: “There is a clear relationship between air pollution and human health impacts, and although we have made significant progress over recent years, more remains to be done.

“The Scottish Government is determined to drive down pollution levels, which is why I am delighted Professor Campbell Gemmell has agreed to chair a wide-ranging independent review into our ambitious Clean Air for Scotland strategy.

“The review will bring together research being undertaken by the British Heart Foundation here in Edinburgh and others elsewhere to determine how we, as a nation, can take further positive steps to mitigate the impact of this hugely important subject.”

Prof Gemmell said he was pleased to have been invited to chair the review.

He said air pollution in Scotland “has already improved significantly” but careful assessment is need to identify solutions and give advice on necessary actions for long-term improvement.

Mr Gemmell and a representative from the British Heart Foundation joined the Scottish Government’s Cleaner Air for Scotland Governance Group earlier this year after two environmental experts resigned in protest.

Emilia Hanna, of Friends of the Earth Scotland, and Professor James Curran, of Scottish Environment Link, stood down from the group citing slow progress and lack of ambition.

Gavin Thomson, of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said 2,500 people a year die from air pollution in Scotland.

“Apart from low emission zones, the Cleaner Air for Scotland strategy was woefully short on action,” he said.

“Scotland won’t meet the air quality targets that have been set and something needs to change.

“We very much welcome a review of the strategy to accelerate ambition and action, and commit the resources needed to deliver clean air for all.”

Scottish Greens environment spokesman Mark Ruskell said: “It’s welcome that after sustained pressure from Greens and campaign groups, and the threat of legal challenge, the government is now rethinking its weak approach to this entirely preventable public health crisis.”