About low emission zones

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The Scottish Government has committed to introduce low emission zones into Scotland's four biggest cities: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee between 2018 and 2020.

Low emission zones will be introduced into all other Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) by 2023 where evidence shows they are the appropriate option to improve air quality.

These actions are based on the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2017/18 commitments.

Over 10 million pounds (a 300% increase in air quality funding) is being invested in 2018/2019 to help establish low emission zones.

This is in addition to the £1.6m made available in 2017-18 to the Bus Emission Abatement Retrofit Programme (or BEAR) to support the bus sector in preparing for low emission zones. A one million pound air quality action fund has also been established to support local authorities in delivering a range of transport-related actions aimed at improving air quality.

The Scottish Government is working in partnership with local authorities to introduce low emission zones. This includes engagement with a wide range of stakeholders including transport organisations, businesses and members of the public.

What are low emission zones?

Low emission zones set an environmental limit on certain road spaces, allowing access to only the cleanest vehicles and can help to transform towns and cities into cleaner, healthier places to live, work and visit.

Vehicles that do not meet the emission standards set for a low emission zones will not be able to enter the zone. A penalty charge will be payable by the vehicle’s registered keeper where a non-compliant vehicle enters unless it is exempt.

Low emission zones were first introduced in Sweden in 1996 and there are now over 250 low emission zones across 15 European countries, either in operation or planned.

They protect public health by improving air quality although outcomes are dependent on size, vehicle scope, traffic data robustness and local weather.

Access to low emission zones is usually based on Euro emission engine classification standards which provide the emission rating of a vehicle. This includes taking account of Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and Particulate Matter emissions (PM).

Details of the geographic extent, scope, timescales for implementation and enforcement of low emission zones will be determined by local authorities as part of the design and consultation process.

Why do we need low emission zones?

Air pollution in Scotland has reduced over recent years but air quality, predominantly caused by road transport, remains an issue at a number of hotspots in Scotland’s towns and cities.

Although everyone is impacted by poor air quality, it is the most vulnerable members of society who suffer the greatest impact, the very young, the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.

What are the benefits of low emission zones?


  • help to protect public health by improving air quality, as well as delivering various health, environment and economic benefits
  • cleaner air can have health benefits for everyone, and in particular for old and very young people and those with existing heart and lung conditions
  • in 2010, the UK Government Department of Health’s Expert Advisory Committee, the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP), estimated that poor air quality shortens average life expectancy in Scotland by three to four months (compared to six to seven in England and Wales), although vulnerable groups are disproportionately affected (Health Protection Scotland, 2014).

Further information can be found at: www.environment.gov.scot/our-environment/air/air-quality-and-health


  • can help reduce pollution from vehicle emissions
  • help to accelerate the uptake of lower emission vehicles – cleaner vehicles also benefit the other areas they travel through
  • encourage people to consider using public transport and active travel.


  • can help improve air quality and protect public health within towns and cities making them more attractive places for living, working and visiting.