Investigating Environmental Justice in Scotland: Links between Measures of Environmental Quality and Social Deprivation
- The overall aim of this research project was to consider the extent to which communities of people in Scotland living at different levels of deprivation also live in proximity to factors affecting environmental quality. The presumption is often made that there is coincidence between poor environmental quality and deprived communities in Scotland. This project sought to develop an evidence base to explore this presumption and to help inform future policy directions.
- The project involved a review of past research in the environmental equity field; a scoping and evaluation of data sets; and an analysis of 8 environmental topics against patterns of multiple deprivation throughout Scotland.
- The results of this analysis provide an initial view of the spatial and social distribution of key aspects of environmental quality across Scotland, with a recognition that this analysis can only provide a relatively basic and initial exploration of complex social and environmental phenomena.
- For each of the 8 environmental topics analysis was undertaken against the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 2004. Use was also made of spatially precise household location data in order to estimate populations in proximity to environmental features. Patterns of clustering and differences between urban and rural populations were also examined where relevant.
- The analysis showed the following:
Recommendations have been made relating to the limitations of current environmental data sets for environmental justice analysis and the ways in which these may be overcome; approaches which can be taken to monitoring change in patterns of inequality over time; and priority areas for further research.
- For industrial pollution, derelict land and river water quality there is a strong relationship with deprivation. People in the most deprived areas are far more likely to be living near to these sources of potential negative environmental impact than people in less deprived areas.
- For landfills and quarries and open cast sites the patterns of relationship between deprivation and population proximity are less distinct. At a national scale there is no evidence to suggest that deprived populations are more likely than others to live near to landfill sites. For quarries and open cast sites only when populations in rural areas are examined separately does a tendency against more deprived areas become evident.
- People living in deprived areas are less likely to live near to areas of woodland. However, for areas of new woodland the analysis shows that there has been a tendency in planting towards deprived populations, suggesting that policy may be redressing this overall imbalance
- For green space, the analysis showed that both the least and most deprived areas in Scotland have high percentages of people living near to a local designated wildlife site, indicating that there is no simple relationship. A more detailed exploratory analysis was also undertaken for Glasgow highlighting the complex issues involved in assessing environmental justice in relation to green space.
- People living in the most deprived areas are more likely to experience the poorest air quality than those living in less deprived areas. This was found to be true for four (nitrogen dioxide, PM10, benzene and carbon monoxide) out of the five pollutants examined (the exception being sulphur dioxide). Exceedences of the nitrogen dioxide objective (annual mean) are strongly concentrated in the most deprived areas.
Key words: environmental justice, Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, air quality, industrial pollution, derelict land, quarries, forestry, green space, river water quality, GIS.
Project Partners: Scottish Executive, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission
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N.B. The report is available for download from the SNIFFER Website