You might not know it as you crawl on your usual commute through Glasgow city centre or Edinburgh’s gridlocked suburbs, but today is Clean Air Day.

This national event isn’t going to change the world – or even Scotland – but it’s an important opportunity to highlight the pressing need to remove toxic fumes from our daily environment and drive for better health outcomes for everyone.

Scots don’t face the problems of those living in vast developing cities such as Delhi in India, where the toxic, dieselchoked air is as thick as soup and catches your throat even as you try and sleep in an air conditioned hotel bedroom.

However, recognition of the problem and an ambition to solve it here in the UK have yet to be translated into concrete action that delivers real results.


It’s hoped that today’s Clean Air Day – Scotland’s third – will help to promote recognition of this and help the push towards positive change.

It may still be relatively low key, but concrete action is being taken. Glasgow introduced a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) last December, though it currently only covers 20% of buses (it will be 100% by 2022). Under Scottish Government direction, all four of our biggest cities must have taken similar measures by next year.

Edinburgh has also joined the Open Streets movement, closing its city centre roads to traffic on the first Sunday of every month as part of an 18-month pilot programme.

Some critics consider projects such as this to be tinkering at the edges rather than really getting to grips with the air pollution problem.

Nevertheless, those promoting today’s initiative believe that it will make a positive impression.

John Bynorth, who is Policy and Communications Officer for Environmental Protection Scotland, which co-ordinates Clean Air Day north of the border on behalf of the Scottish Government, says that he believes there is now more awareness of climate change issues and this will feed into enthusiasm for today’s events.

“This is particularly true among young people. It seemed to kick off earlier in the year when we saw school pupils protesting in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.

HeraldScotland: Edinburgh residents and visitors make the most of traffic-free streets.Edinburgh residents and visitors make the most of traffic-free streets.

“That really started impacting on the media. Then we had the Extinction Rebellion protests which were huge and very high profile, and both Nicola Sturgeon and Jeremy Corbyn have made declarations on a climate emergency.”

Bynorth says there is a lot more engagement with Clean Air day this year than last. “With schools, it’s absolutely huge. We have dozens of them coming forward and wanting to take part in events.

“I think it’s been driven largely by the climate change agenda. They want to promote how we can improve air quality and how we can reduce the use of a car – emissions from transport sources are a real concern.”

HeraldScotland: CHILDREN driven to school by car are exposed to twice as much traffic pollution as pupils walking along busy roads, research revealsCHILDREN driven to school by car are exposed to twice as much traffic pollution as pupils walking along busy roads, research reveals

More than 100 organisations across the length and breadth of Scotland are taking part in today’s events, with some 20 local authorities from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to North Ayrshire involved.

Those involved range from nurseries to larger schools, health boards, active travel hubs and private and public sector organisations.

Glasgow is staging a free flagship event in George Square including displays of electric vehicles, an electric taxi, a mini BMX stunt track and displays of the latest low emission buses.

Aberdeen is organising a public event on similar lines, while in Argyll, pupils at Rhunahaorine Primary School in Tayinloan are conducting a traffic survey on the nearby A83 main route to Campbeltown to make a short video promoting the benefits of cleaner air. Plockton High School is bringing a Clean Air Day theme to classes, with pupils discussing and debating air quality and what can be done to improve it.

In Crieff, Perthshire, where the pollution- generating A85 road runs directly through the town, a local primary school is taking part in an air quality workshop.


Other engagement events include an initiative to encourage active travel organised by Falkirk Active Travel Hub at Forth Valley Royal Hospital and free breakfast vouchers for NHS staff who cycle or walk to work at Crosshouse Hospital, Kilmarnock.

Some leading figures in the environmental sector are, however, ambivalent about how much of an impact Clean Air Day will actually have. “It’s going to be quite limited,” says Gavin Thomson, Air Pollution Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland.

“I think it’s a good idea and It’s a good opportunity to take stock and look at what is being done on air quality, but to achieve big improvements as well as reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, we need to start seeing bolder action from both our councils and the Scottish Government.”

Thomson backs the commitment to the low emission zones in Scotland’s main cities, pointing out it is something Friends of the Earth has been arguing for over years.

“In reality, though, it’s not yet clear whether they’re going to be as ambitious as they could be.

“We have an incongruity between the rhetoric, which is pretty promising, and the policies we are seeing at a local level. We really need to see some steps to achieving targets as we move forward.”


The Herald’s Climate for Change initiative supports efforts being made by the Scottish Government with key organisations and campaign partners. Throughout the year we will provide a forum in The Herald newspaper, online at and in Business HQ magazine, covering news and significant developments in this increasingly crucial area.

If you are interested in contributing editorially or interested in becoming a Climate for Change partner, please contact Stephen McTaggart on 0141 302 6137 or email