Cleaner air for Scotland: progress report 2018-2019

Final annual progress report for the Scottish Government’s cleaner air for Scotland strategy.

1. Introduction and Background

Over recent years emissions of air pollutants have reduced and air quality has improved across Scotland. However, poor air quality continues to impact on human health and the environment. Poor air quality is also a health inequalities issue, due to the disproportionate effects on the more vulnerable members of the population (people who are very young, the elderly, those with pre-existing medical conditions, and those living in urban areas and deprived communities).

Cleaner air provides multiple benefits, and the responsibility for better air quality rests with many groups, including the general public, national and local government and businesses. There are also opportunities to generate efficiencies and cost savings by linking air quality to related policy interventions, such as climate change adaption and mitigation, and noise reduction.

Cleaner Air for Scotland – The Road to a Healthier Future (CAFS), published in 2015, is a national cross government strategy that sets out how the Scottish Government and its partner organisations propose to reduce air pollution further to protect human health and fulfil Scotland's legal responsibilities as soon as possible. Delivery of CAFS was a commitment of the Scottish Government's Plan for Scotland 2017 -18. Progress has been supported by the CAFS Governance Group, and actions managed by specific working groups and sub-groups.

An independent review of CAFS was carried out during 2019, which was a commitment made in the 2018/19 Programme for Government. CAFS is now being redrafted with a view to publishing a revised strategy at the end of 2020. As a new strategy will be published at the end of the year, this is the final report on progress towards delivering the 40 key actions described in the original CAFS strategy. It is also a reflection on achievements to date and a space to consider the next steps and future opportunities to improve air quality.

The majority of CAFS actions, as well as several new actions, have been completed as shown in Appendix A. Cross departmental working has been crucial to achieving this, and the success of the new strategy will be equally reliant on engagement and partnership working. The redrafting process provides scope to review CAFS actions in terms of deliverability, relevance and impact in the context of a changed policy landscape (climate change emergency, low emissions zones etc.) and growing evidence concerning the health impacts of air pollution. This ensures the strategy remains fit for purpose and reflective of the current requirements..

The new strategy will continue to focus on transport, placemaking, health and climate change themes, but will also introduce new policy areas such as domestic combustion and agriculture. Actions will be based on recommendations for delivering further air quality improvements from the independent review. The strategy will also be aligned with forthcoming policies in climate change, planning and transport to ensure multiple benefits and alignment across these key policy areas.

Figure 1: The six key themes of the Cleaner Air for Scotland (CAFS) Strategy


A Scotland that reduces transport emissions by supporting the uptake of low and zero emission fuels and technologies, promoting a modal shift away from the car, through active travel (walking and cycling) and reducing the need to travel.

Legislation and Policy:

A Scotland where all European and Scottish legal requirements relating to air quality are as a minimum complied with.


A Scotland where all citizens are well informed, engaged and empowered to improve our air quality.


A Scotland which protects its citizens from the harmful effects of air pollution, reducing health inequalities.


A Scotland where air quality is not comprised by new or existing development and where places are designed to minimise air pollution and its effects.

Climate Change:

A Scotland that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and achieve its renewable energy targets whilst delivering co-benefits for air quality.



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