Clean air is essential for our health and wellbeing, and helps to protect the environment as a natural asset. Whilst we have made great strides towards tackling air pollution in Scotland over recent years, it must be acknowledged that there are still areas of poorer air quality in many of our towns and cities. The impacts of poor air quality are not distributed evenly across the population: it is the most vulnerable members of society – the elderly, the very young and those with cardiovascular and respiratory conditions – who bear the largest burden.
People rightly expect to be able to breathe clean air, and the Scottish Government is determined to ensure that we continue to make progress towards tackling this hugely important issue. However, although we can take the lead and set an example through our own actions, we cannot achieve this alone. Successfully addressing air pollution requires a partnership approach, involving the Government, its agencies, local authorities, business and industry, non-governmental organisations and the general public.
The purpose of Cleaner Air for Scotland – The Road to a Healthier Future is to provide a national strategy within which we can all work together towards the common aim of achieving the best possible air quality for Scotland. We already enjoy an enviable reputation for our landscape and scenery, and we want our air quality to be viewed in the same way.
Lower concentrations of air pollution don’t just have a positive effect on human health and the environment. Many of the related actions we can take will make our country – particularly our urban areas, where many of us spend our lives – more pleasant to move around and spend time in. These actions include greater use of public transport, the creation of green infrastructure and enabling active travel (walking and cycling). They may also help to reduce congestion and improve traffic flow, delivering practical and financial benefits for businesses.
All of us, both in our personal and professional lives, can help to make a real difference to the quality of the air we breathe. With a concerted effort to work together towards this goal, the vision of Cleaner Air for Scotland can be realised.
Dr Aileen McLeod
Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform
Minister for Transport and Islands