NEW proof of a clear link between road traffic pollution and ill-health adds urgency to programmes aimed at civilising the air in Scotland’s cities. We’re told these programmes require adequate lead-in times, and we understand that.

But we also understand that road traffic pollution causes illness, particularly in children; it exacerbates existing serious conditions and leads to early deaths. It puts pressure on GPs and the NHS. It costs the Scottish economy an estimated £1.1 billion annually. It isn’t acceptable.

The latest study, led by Professor James Chalmers, may have been restricted to Dundee, Perth and surrounding area, but it is clear in emphasising that the results would be replicated elsewhere. This is bad news for Glasgow and Edinburgh, which previous studies have shown to have Scotland’s most polluted streets. Glasgow’s Hope Street and Edinburgh’s St John’s Road are no places to breathe freely. One resident of the capital described waiting for a bus as being “like passive smoking”. Analysis by Friends of the Earth found toxic exhaust fumes breached legal safety limits that should have been met eight years ago.

The country’s key strategy for dealing with the problem consists of implementing Low Emission Zones (LEZs). First introduced in Sweden in 1996, the aim of these is to limit access to pollution trouble spots to only the cleanest vehicles. Scotland’s first LEZ is due to be operational in Glasgow by the end of the year, with Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee due to follow by 2020.

Such a programme requires collaboration and partnership between the Scottish Government and local authorities and, earlier this year, MSPs expressed concern over whether councils had the necessary technical and financial resources to create such zones.

As political complaints go, that’s a hardy perennial, but it may well be that the latest Dundee University study underlines a need for this programme to be properly resourced. Glasgow City Council has already been criticised for a perceived slow roll-out of its LEZ, particularly in relation to banning all but the cleanest engines – not happening fully until December 2022.

Still, LEZs are not the only show in town. All of our cities have made major strides towards pedestrianisation in recent years, and the Scottish Government’s additional strategies include supporting councils through the Air Quality Fund and working with the commercial and bus sectors to introduce an Engine Retrofitting Centre.

With Prof Chalmers’ study demonstrating that we have a major health issue on our hands, the important thing now is to keep our feet off the brakes and, where possible, apply a little more gas in getting our city centres and other affected areas to be pleasant places in which to live, walk and work.