Air quality in Scotland is measured and monitored via a variety of automatic and non-automatic networks designed to deliver information for reporting to the EU and for national and local level reporting. The method and location of monitors is critical for how usefully the data can be applied. The EU has defined reference methods for member states to monitor specified air pollutants and these are returned by DEFRA on behalf of the UK (2008 ambient air quality directive (2008/50/EC)). To combat transboundary air pollution further legislation is also in place to control emissions of air pollutants, with the main legislation being the UNECE Gothenburg Protocol. The Protocol was originally adopted by the executive body in 1999 to abate acidification, eutrophication and ground-level Ozone and sets emission ceilings for 2010 for sulphur, NOx, VOCs and ammonia. Similar ceilings have since been set in European law under the 2001 National Emission Ceilings Directive (2001/81/EC), which was subsequently made into UK law as the National Emission Ceilings Regulations 2002. The Protocol has since been amended in 2012 to include national emission reduction commitments to be achieved in 2020 and beyond.
The European Commission recently undertook a comprehensive review of existing EU air policy, building on the 2005 Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution. Following on from the review, in December 2013 the Commission has adopted a Clean Air Policy Package which includes a new Clean Air Programme for Europe with new air quality objectives for the period up to 2030.
The Automatic Urban & Rural Network of monitoring stations across Scotland are funded and maintained by Defra as they are a requirement for reporting UK air quality to the EU. The site locations and further details can be found in the SAQD website.
Linking to the requirements of the EU Directives, the latest UK Air Quality Strategy published in July 2007 established the framework for air quality improvements across the UK. Measures agreed at the national and international level are the foundations on which the strategy is based. The strategy sets out the Air Quality Standards and Objectives which have been set to benchmark air quality in terms of protecting human health and the environment. Within the UK, air quality is a devolved matter, with the Scottish Government having responsibility for the development of air quality policy and legislation for Scotland.
We can divide the air quality data available for Scotland into 2 categories, firstly the Automatic Urban and Rural Network (AURN) designed to deliver data for reporting at UK level to the EU and local and/or national air quality monitoring normally referred to as local air quality monitoring (LAQM). The AURN sites are funded and maintained by DEFRA as they form part of a UK-wide network of air quality monitoring stations. LAQM sites and national monitoring sites are funded and maintained by Scottish local authorities (LAs) with support from the Scottish Government (SG).
Air quality monitoring stations are divided into four main types depending on their location ‘type’: kerbside, roadside, urban background and rural background. Location has a very significant effect on measured air quality and the data from individual sites has to be treated with some caution if it is used to represent air quality for a wider geographical area.
Since 2007 the Scottish Government has funded the collation and data ratification/validation for all LA and non-LA sites across Scotland into a single database and website – Scottish Air Quality (SAQ) . The website is a source of data and information on Scottish air quality and repository of historical monitoring data from which trends and indicators are derived.
SEPA is responsible for collating information on emissions from regulated sources such as energy generation and oil refineries etc. This is held on the Scottish Environment Website (SEWEB) which is linked into the SAQ so that all sources of air quality monitoring are accessible from one website.