Frequently asked questions


How does a low emission zone work?

Low emission zones are a type of Vehicle Access Regulation Scheme that set an environmental limit on certain road spaces, restricting access for the most polluting vehicles to improve air quality and so protect public health within our towns and cities, making them more attractive places in which to live, work and visit.


How will low emission zones be introduced?

Local authorities will be responsible for designing and implementing low emission zones in their own areas based on local circumstances. The Act gives local authorities the powers to create, enforce, operate or revoke a low emission zone in their area and to design the shape, size and vehicle scope of individual low emission zones.


When will low emission zones come into effect?

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.

Please use the links to each city’s web pages to view the latest information:

Local Zones

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.


Are Low Emission Zones just a way for local authorities to generate revenue from non-compliant drivers who are unaware of LEZs?

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 links LEZs and climate change, but if you encourage people to use older petrol cars, will this not be worse for the climate through CO2?

The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 also incorporated the 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.


How will drivers know when they are entering a low emission zone?

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.


When will low emission zones operate?

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.


How will low emission zones be enforced?

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 unless the vehicle is exempt or within the grace period.


How can I check if my vehicle (or a vehicle I am going to buy) will be allowed entry into low emission zones?

Low emission zone entry will be based on proposed Euro emission engine classification standards.

. A basic vehicle registration checker is available here: https://www.lowemissionzones.scot/vehicle-registration-checker

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

  • the Euro 6/VI standard for diesel vehicles was introduced in September 2014, with any new vehicle sold after 2016 having to meet this standard
  • the Euro 4/IV standard for petrol engines was introduced in January 2005, with any new vehicles sold after 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.


What if my car doesn't comply with low emission zones?

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.


Will any vehicles be exempt from the low emission zone requirements?

It is likely that some categories of vehicles will be exempt from low emission zone requirements. The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 allows Scottish Ministers to make regulations that lay out the details of how low emission zones will operate, including on issues such as exemptions.


Will all the low emission zones in Scotland have different rules/penalties?

The Transport Scotland Act 2019 provides the legislation to enable the creation and civil enforcement of low emission zones. The national standards for low emission zones – such as emission levels, penalties and exemptions – will be set in regulations currently in development and due to be published later in 2020. Local authorities will then use these regulations to design each low emission zone based on their specific, local requirements.


Who will decide penalty charges?

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


How will penalties be spent?

The Transport Scotland Act 2019 states that penalties will be used to support the air quality objectives of the low emission zones.


How can I make my views known regarding 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.


Will low emission zones reduce congestion?

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.


How will low emission zones' effectiveness be measured?

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.


How are Local Authorities able to set up a low emission zone in advance of the regulations being finalised following the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019?

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.

Other Local Authorities will have the same option.

It is anticipated that the Regulations resulting from the Transport (Scotland)Act 2019 will be finalised by the end of 2020. These regulations will provide the details to allow the Local Authorities to establish their low emission zones.


Can vehicles be upgraded to ensure compliance?

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


What is retrofitting?

Retrofitting refers to the use of technologies that can help bring older vehicles from Euro 3, 4, or 5 up to the new required levels of adherence when it comes to NOx and CO2 emissions. This effectively makes the vehicle Euro 6 standard compliant.


What is the Bus Emissions Abatement (BEAR) Programme?

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.


Why could a 2015 diesel with low car tax band be restricted when a 10-year-old petrol car is not?

Low emission zones (LEZs) don’t relate to car tax band. LEZs aim to stop the Nitrogen Dioxide problem we have in our towns and cities and protect public health by improving air quality. The combustion of diesel fuel in diesel engines has traditionally produced far higher levels of NOx than petrol engines, which is why a petrol vehicle registered after 2006 will likely be compliant, where only diesel vehicles registered after 2016 are likely to be compliant.


What about the climate, this isn’t about CO2 then?

It’s important we tackle CO2 and respond to the climate emergency. We would always encourage walking, cycling, public transport and electric vehicles over traditional petrol or diesel cars, however, for the oldest and youngest in our society, and especially those with existing health conditions, we need to take urgent action to protect public health by improving air quality in our towns and cities. LEZs will achieve this by restricting access to the most polluting vehicles, which are predominantly diesel.

LEZs will support efforts to tackle climate change by encouraging more sustainable forms of transport in our towns and cities.