PRESSURE is on ministers to come up with effective plans to crack down on air pollution as figures reveal that 10 Scottish streets are on course to break legal limits.

The data comes as the Scottish Government is today expected to announce a new strategy to tackle the problem amid moves by the European Commission for individual countries to take more action, and just months after it emerged that more than 3,500 Scots die every year from the effects of breathing in poor quality air caused by fumes from vehicle exhausts.

Under the European Ambient Air Quality Directive, the Scottish Government was legally obliged by 2010 to meet the limits for the amount of the toxic gas nitrogen dioxide contained in the atmosphere. The limit was set at 40 microgrammes per cubic metre of air.

However, analysis by Friends of the Earth of mid-year average pollution concentrations of nitrogen dioxide reveals that 10 streets across Scotland are on track to break legal limits by the end of this year.

Official data shows Edinburgh’s St Johns Road was Scotland’s most polluted street with a figure of 72 microgrammes per cubic metre – almost double the legal level – followed by Glasgow’s Hope Street on 60 and Perth’s Atholl Street on 54.

Dundee’s Seagate had the fourth worst pollution level with 51, followed by Aberdeen’s Union Street in fifth place with 49, Dundee’s Lochee Road in sixth with 46 and Rutherglen’s Main Street in seventh place with 43. Dumbarton Road, Glasgow, Wellington Road, Aberdeen and Meadowside, Dundee, were eighth, ninth and tenth, all with pollutions level just exceeding the legal level.

The figures are from the Scottish Air Quality and are for the first six months of this year.

Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner with the environmental organisation Friends of the Earth, said it was unlikely the 10 streets would make the substantial improvements to air quality in order to meet the required legal limit by the end of the year.

“The stakes for the Scottish Government to get its new strategy on air quality right could not be higher,” said Hanna.

“If the air quality plans do not show how clean air will be delivered as soon as possible, then the European Commission may well deem those plans to be illegal.

“They could take the Scottish and UK Governments to court and eventually impose hefty fines against them for breaking European air quality laws. We hope it will not come to this and that the air quality plans will deliver the clean air which is so desperately needed.”

Hanna added that almost 3,500 people in Scotland die prematurely every year from air pollution – 15 times more people than die in road traffic accidents. Children, the elderly and people with existing health problems including asthma are most vulnerable to impacts of air pollution.

“It is crucial that today’s air quality plan sets out a clear path to clean air. Too many people have suffered from what has been painfully slow action to this point,” she said.

“Today’s plan must spell out how traffic levels will be cut and emissions standards improved. We are calling for better walking and cycling paths, cleaner and easier public transport, and for Low Emission Zones (LEZs) to be rolled out in the most polluted cities by 2018.”

She said: “The plan must also provide funding for cash-strapped councils to pay for Low Emission Zones if it is to succeed and not merely become a toothless tiger.”

Air pollution from cars, vans, buses and lorries can trigger heart attacks, strokes and cause infections. The emissions aggravate lung diseases and can worsen the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people with asthma.

Anne Hay, 60, is based in Edinburgh and has suffered from asthma for the last 25 years.

She said: “Air pollution from heavy traffic makes my asthma symptoms much worse. I know this to be the case because since learning about air pollution, I have avoided travelling to the city centre and as a result I have to rely on less medication to manage my condition.

“My grandson was hospitalised for a week with breathing problems when he was only 14 months old. At the time he went to a nursery just next to a filling station. He has since been transferred to a new nursery away from traffic and his symptoms have eased.

“I am hoping that the Scottish Government will ensure the air will be clean enough so that it no longer damages our children’s lungs. I want to see the Government roll out Low Emission Zones as soon as possible to protect our health.”

The estimates of deaths caused by air pollution, published by the UK Government in September, were prompted by a Supreme Court ruling in April requiring the UK Government to take urgent action to tackle illegal levels of air pollution in cities.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Much progress has been made over recent years in improving air quality. However areas of poorer air quality related to emissions from transport remain in many of our urban areas and the Scottish Government recognises that more needs to be done.

“Air pollution is harmful, and we continue to work closely with local authorities and other partners to improve air quality and the lives and well-being of communities and individuals across the country. Today Environment Minister Aileen McLeod will publish ‘Cleaner Air for Scotland – The Road to a Healthier Future’ which sets out our plans for further action to tackle poor air quality over the coming years, including adopting the World Health Organisation guideline values for particulate matter in Scottish legislation – making  Scotland the first country in Europe to do so.

"The strategy will also highlight opportunities to generate efficiencies and cost savings by linking air quality to other areas, such as climate change adaptation and mitigation, transport and planning. Cleaner Air for Scotland aims to provide a framework within which this can be achieved.