Local air quality management: policy guidance

Updated guidance for local authorities to take account of Environmental Standards Scotland's recommendations to strengthen the local air quality management regime.

2: Local Air Quality Management

2.1 Part IV of the Environment Act 1995 requires the UK Government and the devolved administrations to publish an Air Quality Strategy and establishes the system of LAQM.

Air quality objectives

2.2 The air quality objectives set out in the Air Quality (Scotland) Regulations 2000, the Air Quality (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2002 and the Air Quality (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2016 provide the statutory basis for LAQM. The regulations also prescribe the dates for meeting air quality objectives. The objectives are set out in Table 2.1.

2.3 Under the 1995 Act, local authorities are required to regularly review and assess air quality in their areas against these objectives. Local authorities have to consider the current and likely future air quality in their areas, and assess whether the objectives are likely to be achieved by the due dates. Local authorities also have a duty to continue to work towards meeting the air quality objectives beyond the deadlines set out in the regulations. For example, an objective which was due to be met by 2005 must also be met in every subsequent year.

Table 2.1 – Air quality objectives prescribed in regulations for LAQM purposes in Scotland
Pollutant Air Quality Objective Date to be achieved by
Concentration1 Measured as

16.25 μg/m3

3.25 μg/m3

running annual mean r

unning annual mean



1,3 Butadiene 2.25 μg/m3 running annual mean 31.12.2003
Carbon monoxide 10.0 mg/m3 running 8-hour mean 31.12.2003

0.5 μg/m3

0.25 μg/m3

annual mean

annual mean



Nitrogen dioxide2

200 μg/m3 not to be exceeded more than 18 times a year

40 μg/m3

1-hour mean

annual mean



Particulate matter (PM10)

50 μg/m3 not be exceeded more than 7 times a year

18 μg/m3

24-hour mean

annual mean



Particulate matter (PM2.5) 10 μg/m3 annual mean 31.12.2020
Sulphur dioxide

350 μg/m3 not to be exceeded more than 24 times a year

125 μg/m3 not to be exceeded more than 3 times a year

266 μg/m3 not to be exceeded more than 35 times a year

1-hour mean 2

4-hour mean 1

5-minute mean




Review and assessment reporting

2.4 Local authorities are required to produce an Annual Progress Report (APR) detailing their review and assessment work in the previous calendar year. A template has been developed which provides guidance on how to conduct, complete and submit the APR and this is available on the Report Submission Website (RSW)[6].

2.5 Given that LAQM has now been in place for over 20 years, the assumption is that most hotspots will have been identified. However, it is recognised that new issues will from time-to-time arise that require more detailed investigation. Local authorities are encouraged to incorporate such investigations into their routine review and assessment work, action planning and annual progress report as far as possible. If a local authority feels that this is not appropriate or feasible, the option to undertake a separate more detailed investigation is available. The Scottish Government will consider these situations on a case-by-case basis, in discussion with the authority concerned. A local authority should proceed to a more detailed investigation as soon as a new issue is identified and not wait until the next annual review and assessment reporting cycle.

2.6 Local authorities are required to submit their APR to the Scottish Government and to other statutory consultees[7] by the end of June each year. All air quality reports, must be submitted electronically via the Report Submission Website. If the Scottish Government does not accept the conclusion of a local authority's report, then the authority will be invited to provide written comments justifying their decision within a specified deadline set out in the appraisal letter. SEPA will also provide written comments on reports once they have been submitted.

2.7 Local authorities who wish to seek clarification on the findings of the appraisal process should in the first instance contact the LAQM Helpdesk for further advice. The LAQM Helpdesk can discuss the details of individual cases and provide advice on responding to any points raised in the appraisal. Details are provided in Table 2.2.

Table 2.2 – Helpdesk for Local Authorities


Review & Assessment, Action Planning, Report Submission Website

Operated by:

Bureau Veritas

Contact Details:

0800 032 7953 LAQMHelpdesk@uk.bureauveritas.com

Late submission of reports

2.8 The Scottish Government accepts that there will often be legitimate reasons for late submission. In such cases, authorities should contact the Scottish Government and SEPA at the earliest opportunity so that a revised submission date can be agreed. Where no such contact is made (and in cases where the revised deadline is missed with no further contact) SEPA, with the support of the Scottish Government, will follow a system of reminder and warning letters (Tables 2.3 and 2.4). The same system will also be used for outstanding air quality action plans.

Table 2.3 – Reminder and warning letters for annual progress reports
Timescale Month* Enforcement level
Report two months overdue August Reminder
Report three months overdue September Warning letter
Report four months overdue October Final warning letter
Report six months overdue December Section 85 direction

* Or agreed revised deadline

Table 2.4 – Reminder and warning letters for action plans
Timescale Months past AQMA designation or completion of scheduled review* Enforcement level
Action plan two months overdue 14 months Reminder
Action plan three months overdue 15 months Warning letter
Action plan four months overdue 16 months Final warning letter
Action plan six months overdue 18 months Section 85 direction

* Or agreed revised deadline

The Scottish Government expects that the reserve powers available to SEPA should be used routinely once the three warning levels issued to local authorities have been missed.

Air quality action plans

2.9 Whenever one or more of the air quality objectives has not been met by the required date, or is in danger of being exceeded, the local authority must declare an AQMA, covering the geographical area of concern. The authority must then prepare and publish an action plan within the shortest possible time following declaration of an AQMA and no later than 12 months post declaration. The action plan must outline how the local authority intends to tackle the issues identified and achieve compliance with the failing objectives in the shortest possible time. The procedure and timescales for producing an action plan are contained in section 6. Local authorities are not legally obliged to meet the objectives, but they must demonstrate that they are taking all reasonable steps in working towards them.

Role of regional groupings

2.10 Under section 56 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, two or more local authorities can act jointly to manage air quality. For example, authorities can co-operate to carry out review and assessment across their combined areas. Subsequently they can declare a single AQMA made up from neighbouring areas of each authority and prepare a joint action plan. Where joint AQMAs are designated however, it may be appropriate for each participating authority to lay its own designation order. Authorities can also choose to carry out separate reviews and assessments but declare a joint AQMA. SEPA, with the agreement of the Scottish Ministers, may use the reserve powers in section 85 of the 1995 Act where co-operation between local authorities is essential for the purposes of LAQM but for whatever reason cannot be achieved.

2.11 The Scottish Government also attaches great value to the local pollution control liaison groups (PCLGs). These groups play a vital role by allowing environmental health officers across authorities to work closely together, and share resources and best practice. The Scottish Pollution Control Co-ordinating Committee (SPCCC) is similarly important in acting as a national focus for the regional groupings.


Email: Andrew.Taylor2@gov.scot

Back to top