Parliament updated on Scotland’s Low Emission Zones

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The Cabinet Secretary for Transport has provided an update to the Scottish Parliament today on Low Emission Zones.

From 1 June 2024, all four of Scotland’s largest cities have been fully enforcing Low Emission Zones (LEZ). The significant public health intervention restricts the access of the most polluting vehicles in order to protect health, improve air quality and support a shift towards more sustainable transport.

The Cabinet Secretary reaffirmed to the Parliament, the clear scientific and medical consensus, that there is no safe level of air pollution. Ms Hyslop referenced the latest research from the University of Dundee demonstrating that respiratory admissions in children were significantly associated with elevated level of air pollution in the area.

The statement outlined the support that’s been provided by the Scottish Government since 2019 to help those that need it most with the cost of the transition to compliant vehicles and to shift to more sustainable forms of transport. Parliament was informed about the LEZ exemptions for Blue Badge holders, where over 15,000 people have already registered. The Cabinet Secretary also offered thanks to the four local authorities for their focus and determination to deliver the LEZs.

Cabinet Secretary for Transport Fiona Hyslop said:

“The work behind the scenes in undertaking the detailed assessment and design of the LEZs has been underway for a long time. In addition, extensive marketing and awareness raising campaigns undertaken since 2019 have helped drivers and businesses around the country, by allowing ample time to prepare for the LEZs.

“Presiding Officer, we acknowledge the move to LEZs, while not affecting the vast majority of vehicles on the road, will mean that owners of high polluting older vehicles will have to take action to avoid receiving Penalty Charge Notices. Whether that means switching to a cleaner vehicle (noting that petrol cars newer than 2006 are generally all compliant) or to more sustainable transport options, or varying their route to avoid the relatively small city centre areas - the effect is that only the owners of the dirtiest most polluting vehicles are inconvenienced. 

“The inconvenience to drivers of these vehicles pales in comparison to the life changing impacts of harmful air pollution. I would like to think all members of this chamber see the LEZs for what they are – a reasonable and proportionate response to a very real public health issue that has gone on largely ignored for far too long.”

Dundee City Council’s Climate, Environment & Biodiversity Convener Councillor Heather Anderson said: “The public health benefits of the Low Emission Zone are clear. The measures taken in introducing this scheme benefit children, older people, those with existing underlying health problems, and everyone who breathes in the cleaner air.

“Since the LEZ first came into being in Dundee, at the start of the two-year grace period, we have seen improvements in air quality due to the behaviour change of those who have taken proactive measures ahead of commencement coming in.

“We want to carry this progress forward and continue the good work that has taken place.”

Transport and Environment Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, Councillor Scott Arthur said:

“I’m proud that we’ve reached this important milestone in our journey to become a healthier, greener, and more sustainable city. For the past two years we’ve run a positive information campaign to give people time to get ready for the LEZ, and to make sure they avoid penalties once enforcement begins.

“We have ambitious plans to achieve net zero, accommodate sustainable growth, cut congestion, and improve air quality, amongst other commitments to create a safer and more people-friendly city; and the LEZ is a key component of these.

“Public attitudes towards LEZs are improving across Scotland, with a recent poll indicating that 60% of respondents were in favour of the zones, with just 21% opposed. This is clear evidence that people are seeing the many benefits of LEZs, and how they link in with our wider aims to make our city cleaner, greener and healthier for everyone.

“Alongside Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Dundee we’re sending a clear message that our major cities are united in pursuing a better future for all.

“And as Scotland’s capital city, we have a duty to lead on these key climate issues which will define our country for generations to come.”

Councillor Angus Millar, Glasgow City Council Convener for Climate and Transport said: "I am proud that last year Glasgow became the first city in Scotland to bring its Low Emission Zone into force, and to now be joined by three Scottish partner cities in addition to the hundreds of cities across Europe who have introduced similar initiatives in ensuring cleaner, more breathable air.

“Addressing the stubbornly high levels of harmful air pollution experienced in Glasgow city centre requires action on air quality like the roll-out of the LEZ one year ago, and there are early encouraging signs of progress.

"Alongside the ongoing shift towards sustainable transport and cleaner air for our citizens, Glasgow will continue striving for a more equitable, pleasant experience for everyone who visits, works and lives in the city centre, while improving public health.”

An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said: “We would like to thank all our partners who have supported us during the lengthy process to develop and deliver the LEZ. The evidence the Council has gathered to date suggests that significant air quality improvements will be achieved, resulting in health benefits for the most vulnerable members of society.  The Council will be monitoring the impacts of the LEZ once it is fully operational.

“The city centre remains very much open for business with a range of transport options available to people. Even those with non-compliant cars can still access the majority of city centre car parks. There are signs at all access points to the LEZ, as well as advance warning signage on approaches, which will enable people to see where the zone starts and ends and plan their journeys accordingly.”

Chair of Healthy Air Scotland, and Policy and Public Affairs Officer at Asthma + Lung UK Scotland, Gareth Brown said: 

“With 1 in 5 Scots developing a lung condition like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in their lifetime, for them, air pollution can trigger life-threatening asthma attacks and flare-ups.

“Children are more susceptible to air pollution as their lungs are still growing, and they also breathe faster than adults. As they grow, toxic air can stunt the growth of their lungs, making them less resilient into adulthood and placing them at greater risk of lung disease in the future. 

“Public health focussed policies like LEZs are seen as the most effective tool, but we would like to see policies that go further, helping to clear up pollution hotspots throughout the country, not just in our four main cities. It is vitally important that we protect the lungs and health of our communities, no one should be forced to breathe in toxic air.”

Published 5 Jun 2024 Tags