Edinburgh progressive alliance backs action to reduce toxic air pollution

New Tory councillors oppose clean air action in first Edinburgh council policy vote

NEW COUNCILLORS in Scotland’s capital hit the ground running after overwhelmingly passing a motion to seek a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) to reduce city pollution levels.

The urgent motion, brought forward for the first post-election full meeting of the council today (Thursday 18 May) by Scottish Green Chas Booth, sought a cross-party coalition to move forward with plans for Scotland’s first LEZ.

The SNP, Labour, Greens and Liberal Democrats - who all had election commitments to the plan - backed the motion to lobby the Scottish Government (which wants to support a first emission zone project by 2018) to support a plan for Edinburgh.

The motion was passed with 44 votes with only Edinburgh 18 Tory councillors opposing action on clean air. The annual mean nitrogen dioxide objective was exceeded at 26 monitoring locations across the city in 2015.

Read more - Scotland's 'car-sick' society means 2,000 early deaths from pollution

Scottish Green Mary Campbell, seconding the motion, had called for colleagues to “start this term in the spirit of political cooperation” with mutual support for the council to take a lead.

However, Tory councillor Nick Cook called for the plan to be stalled due to the timing of the proposal and a lack of clarity on how a LEZ would be established and function. 

The result of the vote was immediately welcomed by Scottish Government minister Humza Yousaf, who pledged to “continue dialogue” with councils who want to establish a LEZ. 

According to Friends of the Earth Scotland, “Air pollution is Scotland’s biggest environmental health threat, responsible for an equivalent of 2000 deaths annually. Traffic is the main cause of air pollution.

“Tackling air pollution means not only saving lives, improving health, and stimulating the economy, it also means tackling climate change.”

The environmental group proposed that incentives are created to reduce traffic, especially from heavily polluting vehicles, and extra support given to active travel like walking and cycling. 

The first meeting of the council also voted for Frank Ross, outgoing SNP group leader, to become the city’s Lord Provost by 26 votes to 24. However, the council is yet to form a working administration. 

The SNP edged out the Tories 19 seats to 18 in the city, while Labour fell back to 12 councillors. The Scottish Greens are the fourth biggest party with eight councillors, and the Liberal Democrats returned six. 

Picture courtesy of Friends of the Earth Scotland 

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