Cleaner air for Scotland: the road to a healthier future

A strategy setting out the Scottish Government's proposals for delivering further improvements to air quality.

Executive Summary

We have achieved progressively cleaner air over recent years through increasingly strict control of industrial emissions, tighter fuel and emissions standards for road vehicles and control of smoke from domestic premises.

However, even at today’s lower levels, air pollution still harms human health and the environment. Ill health caused by air pollution is a health inequalities issue because it affects the more vulnerable members of the population disproportionately (people who are very young, elderly, those with pre-existing medical conditions, and those living in urban areas and deprived circumstances).

Across the UK, the impact of poor air quality on health has been estimated to cost around £15 billion per year. The total annual cost of air pollution to the UK’s economy may be as much as £54 billion. In Scotland in 2010 fine particulate matter was associated with around 2,000 premature deaths and around 22,500 lost life-years across the population. At the same time, we have yet to achieve full compliance with the EU and Scottish legal requirements for air quality.

The purpose of Cleaner Air for Scotland – The Road to a Healthier Future ( CAFS) is to provide a national framework which sets out how the Scottish Government and its partner organisations propose to achieve further reductions in air pollution and fulfil our legal responsibilities as soon as possible. CAFS outlines the contribution that better air quality can make to sustainable development whilst improving health and the natural environment and reducing health inequalities for the citizens of Scotland.

Section 1, Introduction: introduces CAFS, sets out the multiple benefits of reducing air pollution and explains how air quality fits into wider Scottish Government policy.

Section 2, Structure: sets out the mission, vision and objectives of the strategy (the latter being noted below). It summarises the key actions that CAFS aims to deliver across six main objectives, with a common thread of sustainability running through these.


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 compromised 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 achieves its renewable energy targets whilst delivering co-benefits for air quality.

Finally, this section describes the leadership and governance of CAFS, outlining the procedure for monitoring and reporting on its implementation.

Section 3, Setting the Scene: sets out the main causes of air pollution and explains why it is still a problem. It provides a brief summary of the main Scottish and European legislation on air quality and explains the interactions between air quality and the wider environment.

Sections 4 to 9 set out, for each of the six key objectives, the impacts of air quality, the current situation and the actions proposed to address these issues.

Section 10, National Modelling Framework: outlines the proposed National Modelling Framework ( NMF), which is intended to provide a standard air quality assessment methodology for use across Scotland.

Section 11, National Low Emission Framework: introduces the National Low Emission Framework ( NLEF). The framework sets out a procedure for local authorities to determine effective measures for addressing air quality issues in their areas.

Section 12, Key Performance Indicators: lists the Key Performance Indicators local and central government will use to report progress on their respective roles in implementing CAFS.

An accompanying technical document:

  • describes the consultation process that informed the development of CAFS;
  • provides more detail about the NMF
    and NLEF;
  • lists some useful resources; and
  • provides general background and links to further information on air quality legislation and policy.

Cleaner Air for Scotland – the first five years

We have a long-term vision for air quality in Scotland, and CAFS will be reviewed on a regular basis. Whilst all of the actions set out in CAFS will help us towards this target, some key actions are included in Figure 1, which summarises what we want to achieve in the first five years.

Figure 1. Cleaner Air for Scotland – the first five years

Figure 1. Cleaner Air for Scotland – the first five years


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