The scope of this project was to provide a review and assessment of the existing evidence on public attitudes and behaviour related to air pollution to inform the draft of the new Cleaner Air for Scotland (CAFS) strategy. The objectives of the literature review were to:
- Identify, review and synthesise up-to-date evidence on Scottish public attitudes, perceptions and behaviours towards air quality, to understand the key findings, robustness of evidence base and any outstanding gaps in the evidence,
- Identify and review recent approaches to engaging the public on air quality, to understand effectiveness, limitations and applicability in different contexts, and
- Make recommendations for a public engagement strategy for air quality as part of the planned public consultation on the new CAFS strategy.
Based on the wide range of studies identified in this review, there appears to be a strong awareness of, and engagement with, air quality and climate change issues, at least in certain sectors of society in Scotland. There are however, significant barriers to engagement and importantly behaviour change, amongst particularly deprived communities. This is well-documented and requires a detailed level of understanding of the complex factors at play in order to ensure that future engagement is meaningful and effective.
A range of public engagement approaches have been identified in this review, from communication tools, traditional questionnaires and focus groups, to more participatory ‘citizen panels’, ‘citizen science’, ‘living labs’ and co-creation, and novel techniques using social media and gamification. Whilst traditional communications approaches, such as questionnaires and marketing campaigns, can help to raise awareness across a wider number of people, they can be relatively shallow in their impact. More participatory approaches can create deeper, more meaningful engagement, generating greater public support, which can help to address issues of perceived behavioural control and shift subjective norms, making policies easier to implement and therefore more effective.
Good public engagement should therefore draw upon an assortment of different approaches, using materials from other successful strategies to build a coordinated suite of multi-media initiatives, with support from communications experts and commitment from a range of actors, e.g. national and local government, public health agencies, public transport providers, businesses and schools. Planned longitudinal monitoring and evaluation should be designed into the campaign to identify the effectiveness of strategies, and to allow organisers to learn from the successes and follow up on areas of weakness. Coupling evaluation with evidence on how public engagement has contributed can create a feedback exchange, and also enable citizens to reflect on their experiences in a more informed way. Furthermore, the engagement strategy, materials and evaluation reports should be transparent and publicly available to allow others to benefit.
The following highlights key recommendations for a public engagement strategy for air quality in Scotland to inform the new CAFS strategy and future public engagement approaches.
1. Consider a holistic approach that reflects citizens’ lived experiences rather than focusing exclusively on air quality.
2. Use a range of pre-piloted engagement approaches, informed by communications and subject experts.
3. Ensure engagement approaches are inclusive of all sectors of society and appropriately communicated.
4. Target specific groups separately, e.g. vulnerable groups, user groups.
5. Gain support from and include a range of actors, e.g. national and local government, public health agencies, public transport providers, businesses and schools.
6. Research the affected communities and actively engage with them to understand the socio-cultural contexts and complexities of their needs.
7. Co-create solutions that work for the affected communities, through citizens’ panels, and ‘living labs’, ensuring participants are demographically representative.
8. Support citizen-led engagement events and activities, e.g. citizen science.
9. Ensure promoted behavioural changes are easier, more convenient and preferably cheaper than the status quo.
10. Raise awareness responsibly, ensuring that risk perceptions and data interpretation are managed and achievable behavioural responses are provided.
11. Focus communication on health impacts, rather than concentrations or emissions.
12. Use change agents, influencers and middle actors to help raise awareness and promote behaviour change to affect normative behaviours.
13. Use social media to spread awareness through wider social connections and families.
14. Plan longitudinal monitoring and evaluation, coupled with citizen feedback, into the public engagement design.
15. Ensure materials and evaluation are made available to benefit other public engagement strategies.