Frequently asked questions

Low emission zones are a type of Vehicle Access Regulation Scheme that sets an environmental limit on certain road spaces to improve air quality. Low emission zones allow access to only the cleanest vehicles to help accelerate the move to lower emission vehicles and encourage earlier renewal of the fleet.

Local authorities will be responsible for designing and implementing low emission zones in their own areas based on local circumstances.

Low emission zones will be introduced into Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee by 2020. Each city committed to introducing LEZs is at a different stage of development. Phase 1 of Glasgow’s low emission zone focusing on buses came into effect on the 31 December 2018 and will include all other vehicles at the end of 2022. Low emission zones will be introduced into all other Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) by 2023 where National Low Emissions Framework (NLEF) appraisals show this is the correct mitigation.

Local authorities will install roadside signage to let drivers know when they are entering a low emission zone. Positioning of signs will take account of the need for those who do not wish to enter the zone to take an alternative route.

The proposal is for low emission zones to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the year, with local authorities having the flexibility to set operational hours based on the specific requirements of each zone, where appropriate.

It is likely that automatic detection utilising Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras linked to a national vehicle licencing database will be used to monitor vehicles entering a low emission zone. Vehicles which do not comply with relevant Euro emission standards will be automatically detected and subjected to a penalty notice.

Vehicle emissions standards are part of the low emission zone proposals included in the Transport (Scotland) Bill, which was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 8 June 2018. Whilst the Bill does not set the mandatory vehicle emissions standards for low emission zones, it does include provisions for Ministers to create such regulations.

Low Emission Zone entry will be based on the Euro emission engine classification standards.

While there is currently no database available for the public to check their vehicle against the corresponding Euro standard, the DVLA is currently developing such a programme.

The current proxy is to use vehicle age as a guide to the corresponding Euro classification:

  • the Euro 6 standard for diesel cars was introduced in September 2014, with any new car sold after September 2015 having to meet this standard
  • the Euro 4 standard for petrol engines was introduced in January 2005, with any new vehicles sold after January 2006 having to meet this standard.

Each low emission zone will be designed by the relevant local authority, taking account of local circumstances. The vehicle types to be included will be determined by taking account of information from air quality, traffic modelling and consultation.

Local Authorities establishing low emission zones will set a grace period (lead-in time) to allow those wishing to drive within the low emission zone an opportunity to upgrade their vehicle(s) to a less polluting model (either by replacing it or having it modified) before penalty charges are applied. An additional period may also be available to those who live within a low emission zone. Grace periods will be confirmed by the local authority when they confirm the design of the low emission zone.

It is likely that some categories of vehicles will be exempt from low emission zone requirements. The Transport (Scotland) Bill which was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on the 8 June 2018 will allow Scottish Ministers to make regulations that lay out the details of how low emission zones will operate, including on issues such as exemptions.

The Transport (Scotland) Bill, which was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 8 June 2018, contains provisions that will allow local authorities to introduce and enforce low emission zones. The Transport Bill will allow Scottish Ministers to make regulations that lay out the details of how low emission zones will operate to ensure consistency across Scotland.

Scottish Ministers will specify the amount of the penalty charge in regulations.

The proposal in the Transport Bill, published on 8 June 2018, is that penalties will be used to support the air quality objectives of the low emission zones.

Local authorities will undertake a consultation on each individual town or city-specific low emission zone as part of the implementation process.

Low emission zones are designed to protect public health by improving air quality through limiting the use of the most polluting vehicles within the zone. The introduction of low emission zones will encourage people to consider how they travel in the affected cities with the potential for more people to choose public transport or active travel.

The Scottish Government proposal is to utilise the existing network of air quality sensors and diffusion tubes, in tandem with the National Modelling Framework (NMF) model data points, to evaluate the effectiveness of low emission zones.

Glasgow’s low emission zone phase 1 for buses has been established using a Traffic Regulation Conditions (TRC) placed on bus operators by Scotland’s Traffic Commissioner. When the Transport Bill comes into effect, its legislative mechanisms will be used for establishing low emission zones.

Yes, there are options available for some vehicles (such as buses and hackney taxis) to be retrofitted to enable compliance.

Retrofitting refers to the use of technologies that can help bring older vehicles from Euro III, IV, or V up to the new required levels of adherence when it comes to NOx and CO2 emissions. This effectively makes the vehicle Euro 6 / VI standard.

The Bus Emission Abatement Retrofit (BEAR) Programme will help bus operators reduce nitrogen dioxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions of existing vehicles through the installation of accredited retrofit technology.