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.

Low Emission Zones are a necessary measure to protect public health in our towns and cities where air pollution exceeds legal limits. They will restrict the most polluting vehicles and will alter how we access our cities and the services they provide. It is important to note that Scotland’s Low Emission Zones do not charge for access. To do so in a fair and equitable manner, it is crucial that we design our regulations in a collaborative way with the public, private and third sector and we look forward to receiving views through this consultation.

The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 also incorporated the emerging climate agenda by setting a mandatory objective in the LEZ provisions to ensure that they contribute in the medium to long term towards meeting the emission reduction targets set out in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. In addition to protecting health, we’ve been clear that LEZs can help manage demand and encourage people to think about active travel, public or shared transport options – in addition to considering ultra-low emission vehicles. As part of a broader package of policy measures, we fully expect that LEZs can help respond to the climate emergency.

The Climate Emergency Response Group asked that we consider every one of Scotland’s city centres being vehicle emission free by 2030, which goes further than what is currently proposed in our plans for Low Emission Zones in Scotland’s four biggest cities by the end of 2020. We have outlined in the Programme for Government that we will consult on our ambition to make a transformative shift to zero or ultra-low emission city centres by 2030 through extensive engagement with key sectors, including the bus industry.

We welcome and would value views from individuals, businesses and private and public sector organisations as part of the development of national exemptions. In all considerations, we need to balance exemptions against the primary requirement of Low Emission Zones to contribute towards improving air quality.

We need to ensure that penalty charges (and surcharges) are set at a level that discourage drivers with non-compliant vehicles from entering LEZs, and encourage behavioural change.

Surcharging may contribute towards greater compliance with Scotland’s Low Emission Zones and we look forward to receiving views on this though the consultation.

Larger vehicles have a greater impact in terms of potential air pollution in our towns and centres A fully occupied double decker bus can remove up to 75 private cars from the road. So while buses are very much part of the overall solution to improving air quality, it’s particularly important that these larger vehicles are compliant with euro emissions standards. Through previous rounds of the Scottish Green Bus Fund and Bus Emission Abatement Retrofitting Fund, we’ve supported the transition to a greener fleet.

Yes, managing and enforcing and exemption for blue badge holders would be technically challenging. While this has not been confirmed, we have been exploring how to manage possible exemptions for blue badge holders and it is not without challenges. Through the Scottish Government CivTech programme, we are exploring the possibility of developing and implementing innovative solutions should an exemption for blue badge holders be reflected in the final regulations.

In this scenario, the delivery driver would only receive one penalty charge. Provided the same vehicle is driven within the same low emission zone on more than one occasion in the course of the same day, only one penalty charge would be payable.

We are currently exploring if and how LEZ enforcement technology could be used for purposes other than purely LEZ enforcement. Regulations will specify what ‘approved devices’ can be utilised by local authorities, however specific guidance on enforcement systems and technology will also be captured within LEZ guidance. We look forward to receiving views on how local authorities could maximise the technological opportunities available from the deployment of approved devices through the consultation.