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There are a number of roles we play in protecting and improving the quality of Scotland’s air.

We have a responsibility to regulate and monitor emissions from certain industrial activities that can cause air pollution. These regulatory activities are a major part of what we do.

In addition to our regulatory role, we:

  • Through our role as a statutory consultee in the planning and Local air quality management systems, we influence the location, design and layout of new infrastructure and building developments, and we advise local authorities in reviewing and assessing local air quality in their geographical area. If exceedances of the UK air quality strategy objectives are found, or predicted, an Air Quality Management Area is declared and we assist local authorities in developing an Air Quality Action Plan.
  • We have reserve powers, with the approval of Scottish ministers, to take action where local authorities have made insufficient progress on improving local air quality under Section 85 of the Environment Act (1995).
  • provide policy and operational advice to government, industry and the public on pollution control and other environmental issues;
  • work with partners to understand and improve air quality;
  • provide information on emissions from regulated industries through the Scottish Pollutant Release Inventory (SPRI);
  • work towards Scottish, UK and EU objectives and targets set to address air pollution and contribute to measures to address global climate change and the long-range transport of pollutants;
  • operate the Airborne Hazards Emergency Response Service (AHERS) on behalf of the Scottish Government.


In 2016, SEPA developed teaching material for air pollution and air quality aimed at primary and secondary schools ( The launch of Scottish Government’s Cleaner Air for Scotland (CAFS) strategy programme established a strong schools-based citizen science programme, with SEPA a key agency for its delivery. Since this initial work was carried out SEPA has been (and is) involved in many projects and initiatives designed to raise awareness of air pollution.

SEPA were early pioneers in the use of low-cost air quality sensors to help facilitate the work with schools and local authorities. SEPA, in partnership with local authorities have helped schools to build the case for restricting vehicle use around the school gates, and for promoting active and sustainable travel choices. SEPA, with funding support from Scottish Government, developed a banner-based competition, where schools were encouraged to create air quality improvement messages and designs for display at the school gate. This has been a very successful way in getting the message across regarding the measures the schools were promoting. We have had over 50 schools participate in the banner competition alone, with Glasgow City Council running a city-wide competition that resulted in artwork being beamed onto some of the cities iconic buildings in the lead-up to Clean Air Day.

Work is continuing on various citizen science projects and if you are interested in participating, please contact SEPA.