ENVIRONMENTAL experts have quit a group set up to oversee ministers’ strategy for tackling air pollution, citing frustration and deep disappointment over a lack of progress.

In a major blow to the First Minister, experts advising Nicola Sturgeon on how to reduce pollution in Scotland have quit her clean air strategy team.

Scottish Environment Link, which represents more than 35 environmental groups, has withdrawn its two advisers, accusing the Scottish government of lacking ambition and condemning people to early death and ill health from toxic fumes for years to come.

It cited its disappointment and frustration around the Cleaner Air for Scotland Governance Group’s (CAFSGG) lack of progress in tackling unsafe levels of air pollution, and poor input into Glasgow’s draft Low Emission Zone plans as key reasons.

Scottish Environment Link members resigned from the Cleaner Air for Scotland Governance Group (CAFSGG) after raising concerns around “commitment, ambition and urgency” and following “poor input” into plans for Scotland’s first low emission zone (LEZ) in Glasgow.

Friends of the Earth Scotland campaigner, Emilia Hanna, and Professor James Curran represented Link - the forum which brings together environmental organisations - on the governance group.

In their resignation letter, they said: “We want Scotland’s air quality to be legally compliant as soon as possible, in line with Scotland’s obligations under European law and in line with the continued urgent and pressing need to stop preventable early death and ill-health for exposed populations.

“It is clear to us that continuing to be represented on the CAFSGG is no longer an effective route for us to pursue that aim.”

It comes after further details of the Glasgow LEZ were revealed. The zone will come into effect at the start of 2019, initially cracking down on bus pollution.

All vehicles will be required to be compliant with restricted emissions in the area by the end of 2022.

Campaigners said the plans were not ambitious enough.

Professor James Curran said: “We had no alternative but to resign. For two years we made every effort to inject ambition and urgency into the creation of the first LEZ. In the end we’re deeply disappointed.

“Recently the Scottish Government created an ambitious, strategic and tightly managed national system to tackle flood risk - and now funds it with over £40M per year. Sadly there is no similar determination to tackle air pollution which is directly causing thousands of premature deaths.

“The High Court ordered that air pollution problems must be fixed as fast as possible and that cost can’t be used as an excuse. When thousands of people, particularly from deprived communities, are exposed unknowingly to toxic fumes then Government must force vested interests to act - to act responsibly and to act immediately.”

Ms Hanna said: “Getting the policies right to tackle air pollution is literally a matter of life and death, but there was very little sense of urgency on the Cleaner Air for Scotland Governance Group.”

She added: “It is vital that the Glasgow LEZ tackles cars, vans, lorries, and taxis as well as just buses, because we know that a bus-only LEZ would fail to deliver all the necessary improvements in air quality required to achieve clean air.

“But the group ignored our calls to build evidence for and around a wide-reaching LEZ and as a result, the original Glasgow plan was unacceptably timid.”

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We are fully committed to protecting the public from the harmful effects of air pollution” and continues to take “firm action to combat the illnesses that air pollution can contribute to”.