Air quality

Service status

A sophisticated criminal cyber-attack has had a major impact on the way SEPA works. We are working through all the services that we provide to understand what we need to do in the short and longer term to restore services. We are approaching this work with a sense of urgency.

Air quality

We have a direct remit to regulate, control, monitor and act as a consultee on many activities that may influence air quality in Scotland. Under the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2012 we regulate and monitor certain industrial activities in Scotland that can generate airborne pollution, and, under the Environment (Scotland) Act 1995, we work with, and direct where necessary, local authorities to monitor, manage and improve Scottish air quality.

We also seek to advise and engage government, industry and the public on pollution control and other environmental issues, and we work towards Scottish, UK and EU objectives and targets set to address global climate change and the international transport of pollutants

Aside from these regulatory and policy roles, we operate the Airborne Hazards Emergency Response (AHER) service on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Details of our role in relation to these different areas can be found below:

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We regulate the operators of certain industrial activitiesvia the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2012. Through permits granted under this regulatory regime, operators must prevent or, where that is not practicable, reduce emissions to air, water and land, with the aim of providing a high level of protection to the environment taken as a whole. An ‘emission’ includes the direct or indirect release of a substance, a vibration, heat or noise from individual or diffuse sources.

We also regulate CO2 emissions to air via the EU Emissions Trading System and the UK Government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme; both of which are mandatory carbon emissions reporting and pricing schemes. Together, these schemes cover a range of industrial installations, aircraft operators, and large public and private sector organisations.


We monitor the release of specified pollutants to air, land and water, and waste transfers from certain, larger-scale regulated sites. This is reported in the Scottish Pollutant Release Inventory. This data is used to fulfil the reporting requirements of the United Kingdomand EuropeanPollutant Release and Transfer Registers and allows the public access to emissions data.

Data on local air quality (supplied by local authorities) is also contained in the Scottish Government’s Air quality in Scotland website.

On behalf of the Scottish Government, we lead Scotland’s emergency air pollution response, the Airborne Hazards Emergency Response (AHER) service. This provides air quality monitoring and information to support the emergency services and other agencies in the event of a serious incident that has the potential to impact air quality – such as a chemical fire, an explosion at an industrial site or a release of gases.

Managing and improving air quality

Our overarching aim is to ensure that Scotland’s air quality improves and that national and European air quality standards are met.

Through our role as a statutory consultee in the planningand Local air quality managementsystems, 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 objectivesare found, an Air Quality Management Area is established and we assist local authorities in developing an Air Quality Action Plan

Although local authorities are primarily responsible for managing and improving local air quality, under Section 85 of the Environment Act (1995)with the approval of Scottish ministers, we have reserve powers to take action where local authorities have made insufficient progress.

In addition, we work closely with a range of partners to address air quality issues in Scotland, in groups such as:

Wider engagement

We seek to engage, advise and influence government, industry, businesses and the public on a range of air quality issues. This includes current and potential issues relating to industryenergy production, transport and climate change. For example, we developed an air quality teaching packagefor schools, with North Lanarkshire Council, and provided support to the Scottish Government in the development of the new Cleaner Air for Scotland (CAFS) Strategy.