Scottish councils slammed for failing to fine drivers for idling

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Edinburgh council received 298 reports of idling vehicles between 2017 and October 2021 but issued no fixed £20 fine notices, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

Glasgow City Council said separately that it had spoken to or given advice or a leaflet to 2,144 drivers in the three years to March 2021, but had not issued any fines either.

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Councils in Aberdeen, Dundee and Fife, among Scotland’s largest, said they had not penalized any drivers.

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Aberdeen said the drivers turned off their engines at the request of authorities.

Friends of the Earth Scotland has called on local authorities to enforce the law to improve air quality and health.

Its transport campaigner, Gavin Thomson, said: ‘Air pollution from transport is responsible for thousands of premature deaths in Scotland every year and causes serious heart and lung problems.

Friends of the Earth Scotland said vehicle exhaust was making the air harmful to breathe. Photo: Shutterstock

Engine idling is a big part of the problem, with exhaust being spit out into the street making the air noxious to breathe.

“Applying this will also help the public understand the dangers caused.

“Idling is a particular problem around schools, and given that children are among the most likely to be affected by poor air quality, it worries many parents.

“Councils must step in and enforce the law to protect our health.”

But Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The best tactic is education rather than confrontation.”

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at Scotland-based automotive group IAM RoadSmart, said the focus should be on buses and trucks.

He said: “Enforcement of engine idling regulations should be consistent across Scotland and target the most polluting vehicles in places with the worst air quality.

“In most cases it would be buses, trucks and large vans in the middle of our cities.”

But the Passenger Transport Confederation, which represents bus operators, said it was cleaning up its act.

Scottish Director Paul White said: “Bus is the mode that has taken the biggest step towards decarbonising any form of road transport.

“Operators are also committed to improving the environmental performance of buses by monitoring driving performance and investing in technologies such as stop-start which shuts down the engine when the vehicle is stationary.

“Cars are responsible for around 50% of all nitrogen oxide emissions and nearly 60% of greenhouse gases from road transport in Scotland, with the bus sector responsible for a tenth of this quantity.”

A spokesperson for Edinburgh Council said: ‘Our street officers have the power to issue fixed penalty notices to anyone who fails to comply with a request to turn off their engine, and will continue to advise all drivers that idling is an offence, taking appropriate enforcement action if necessary.

“One of the main aims of the national legislation is to target serious offenders, particularly where vehicles congregate regularly, and in these cases patrols will be put in place to eliminate the practice where appropriate.

“We are also working with our parking contractor, NSL, to explore the possibility of giving enforcement powers to combat engine idling to parking attendants, which, if possible, will significantly increase the number of officers who can deal with this problem.”


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