Frequently asked questions

What are Low Emission Zones (LEZs)?

Low Emission Zones (LEZs) are a form of Vehicle Access Regulation Scheme which set minimum emission standards for access to a defined area to improve air quality by allowing access to only the cleanest vehicles, particularly at locations where there is public exposure.

When will LEZs be introduced?

The Scottish Government is committed to introducing Low Emission Zones (LEZs) into Scotland’s four biggest cities (Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow). The original commitment was to have these in place by the end of 2020. However, due to the current Coronavirus pandemic, timescales have changed.

Work has now restarted with an altered timeline. The new indicative timeline is for LEZs to be introduced between February and May 2022.

Do LEZs ban vehicles from city centres?

The aim of LEZs is not to ban all vehicles, but rather to stop the most polluting from entering the zone, to protect public health and to encourage the switch to compliant vehicles. The minimum emission standards (Euro category) for Scottish Low Emission Zones (LEZs) is Euro 6 for diesel cars and vans (generally vehicles registered from September 2015) and Euro 4 for petrol cars and vans (generally vehicles registered from 2006).

What are the plans for each city committed to introducing a LEZ?

Whilst the Scottish Government provides the framework for LEZs in Scotland (in the form of the LEZ element of the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 and associated Regulations and Guidance), each city is responsible for designing and implementing LEZs for their individual city.

More information on each city specific LEZ will be provided on local authority websites as it becomes available.

Find out more about your local LEZ here.

Will these restrictions apply to foreign vehicles?

Yes – the minimum emission standards (Euro category) for Scottish LEZs will be Euro 6 for diesel cars and vans (generally vehicles registered from September 2015) and Euro 4 for petrol cars and vans (generally vehicles registered from 2006).

Are any LEZs operational in Scotland?

Glasgow City Council introduced Scotland’s first LEZ in 2018 – which currently applies to buses only. Phase 2, will include all other vehicles, with full compliance expected in 2023. More information on Glasgow’s LEZ will be added at as the information becomes available.

What vehicles will be included in LEZ restrictions?

We want local authorities introducing LEZs to be as ambitious as possible and consider all vehicles for inclusion.

Will motorbikes/mopeds be included in LEZ restrictions?

LEZ guidance is likely to recommend that these vehicles are not included within LEZ schemes unless a local authority can provide a robust justification for their inclusion.

Will agricultural / grounds-maintenance vehicles be included within restrictions?

If the agricultural/grounds-maintenance vehicles were being driven on public roads, then yes, they would need to meet LEZ emission requirements (if they were to enter a LEZ). These are expected to be Euro 4 for petrol cars and vans (generally vehicles registered from 2006) and Euro 6 for diesel cars and vans (generally vehicles registered from September 2015). However, LEZs do not operate on private roads or land, therefore agricultural/grounds maintenance vehicles can operate on private roads/land without restriction. Electric vehicles would not be subject to any restrictions.

Local authorities have the power to outline the vehicle types which are within scope of their LEZ (e.g. cars, buses, HGVs etc). Should agricultural/ground maintenance vehicles be within scope of the LEZ, then LEZ restrictions would apply.

How will drivers know when they are entering a LEZ?

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 and any required road closures will be accounted for.

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. Local authorities will have the flexibility to set operational hours based on the specific requirements of each zone, where appropriate.

When will LEZs be enforced?

As with the vast majority of Low Emission Zones across Europe, grace periods are a sensible measure as they allow car and fleet owners time to adopt or upgrade their vehicles before the start of any LEZ enforcement.

The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 offers ‘grace periods’ of no less than one and no more than four years.

Whilst the Scottish Government sets the national framework for LEZs, it is for local authorities to design their LEZs as they see fit. This includes choosing an enforcement timeline (and associated grace period) which best fits their own LEZ proposal, in tandem with the potential for a phased approach towards enforcement, as is being used by Glasgow City Council.

Will different cities have different ‘grace periods’?

The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 provides provisions for ‘grace periods’ of no less than one and no more than four years. As such, local authorities have the autonomy to choose a grace period for their LEZ schemes. That means local authorities can use the powers provided by the Act to inform their own LEZ plans.

How will restrictions be enforced and monitored?

LEZ regulations will outline the details of the approved devices for the monitoring and enforcement of Scottish LEZs. Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras are the Scottish Government’s preferred choice. ANPR Cameras are likely to be placed throughout the zone, and not just at entry and exit points. It is up to the local authority introducing the LEZ to determine the best location(s) of camera(s) for effective enforcement.

Will I get a criminal record if I receive a penalty notice for entering a LEZ in a non-compliant vehicle?

No – the intention is that Low Emission Zones will use a decriminalised penalty-based regime to help incentivise compliance from people to help improve air quality.

Can vehicles be upgraded to ensure compliance?

Yes, there are options available for some vehicles (such as buses and hackney black cab taxis) to be retrofitted with technology to let them be compliant.

What is retrofitting?

Retrofitting is the use of technologies that can help bring older vehicles up to the new required levels of adherence when it comes to NOx and CO2 emissions. This effectively makes the vehicle become Euro 6/VI 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 or the CO2 emissions of your vehicle. LEZs aim to stop the nitrogen dioxide (NOx) 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. That is why a petrol vehicle registered after 2006 will likely be compliant, whereas diesel vehicles registered after 2016 are likely to be compliant.

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 will be set in regulations. Local authorities will use these regulations to design their own emission zone based on their specific, local requirements.

What are the penalty charges?

The initial penalty charge for all non-compliant vehicles is set at £60, reduced by 50% if it is paid within 14 days.

A surcharge is also proposed whereby the penalty amount doubles with each subsequent breach of the rules detected in the same LEZ. The penalty charges are capped at £480 for cars and light goods vehicles and £960 for buses and HGVs.

Where there are no further breaches of the rules detected within the 90 days following a previous violation, the surcharge rate is reset to the base tier of charge i.e. £60.

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.

What is being done to raise awareness of Scottish LEZs?

We know that LEZs must interact with a host of other transport polices to be successful. We also know that ongoing and clear communications are critical to advise members of the public what LEZs mean for them.

Alongside this national website, a national LEZ communications plan is underway, which will continue to drive targeted marketing activities to help raise awareness of LEZs to members of the public and stakeholders.

Cities introducing LEZs will also carry out public information campaigns before the start of any LEZ enforcement.

Is there any help for individuals to upgrade their vehicles?

As part of its Programme for Government in 2018 the Scottish Government committed to helping those who will have the most difficulty in changing or updating their vehicle before the introduction of a Low Emission Zone. The LEZ Support Fund provides targeted grant funding between 2019-2022 to four specific groups: 1) households in relative poverty (cars), 2) micro-businesses using cars/vans, 3) taxis, and 4) freight (HGVs).

The first phase of the LEZ Support Fund was launched in October 2019, with a focus on retrofit support for the taxi sector in 2019/20.

The second phase of the Support Fund was launched on the 17 September 2020. £3 million new funding has been made available in 2020/21 through the Low Emission Zone Support Fund to help more organisations prepare for the introduction of Low Emission Zones.

Grants are available to support the cost of retrofitting engines or exhausts on taxis, vans and HGVs to Euro 6/VI standard, in order to help protect public health and meet LEZ standards, and also to incentivise the disposal of non-compliant vehicles.

Households can apply for a £2000 cash grant to help with the disposal of a non-LEZ compliant vehicle. In addition, people can also receive up to two £500 mobility grants or Travel Better vouchers to let them buy a bike, e-bike or public transport voucher.

For micro-businesses, the fund provides an incentive of a £2500 cash grant to dispose of a non-compliant car and replace it with a compliant vehicle or invest in an alternative mode of transport such as an e-cargo bike. More information on funding can be found here.

Won’t the introduction of LEZs place financial hardship on those who cannot afford to upgrade their vehicles?

It is expected that most vehicles in Scotland will comply with the relevant vehicle emission standards by the time that LEZ enforcement is introduced.

£3 million new funding has been made available in 2020/21 through the Low Emission Zone Support Fund to help those with less money to prepare for the introduction of Low Emission Zones. There are grants to help with the cost of retrofitting engines or exhausts on taxis, vans and HGVs to Euro 6/VI standard.

Individuals, households and microbusinesses can also apply for grants which can be used to replace a non-LEZ compliant vehicle or to help them pay for an alternative mode of transport such as an e-cargo bike. More information on funding can be found here.

What is being done to provide alternatives to using a private vehicle?

Transport Scotland’s National Transport Strategy, published in February 2020, sets out a compelling vision for the kind of transport system we all want for Scotland over the next 20 years, one that protects our climate and improves lives.

Our transport system still needs to deliver the National Transport Strategy vision albeit in the new post-pandemic context. The Strategy explicitly states the need to manage transport demand and that future transport investment decisions will be made in line with sustainable travel and sustainable investment goals, prioritising walking, wheeling, cycling and use of public and shared transport options in preference to single occupancy private car use. This will help support a reduction in unsustainable travel.

In 2019/20 £4.5 million grant funding was provided to local authorities to support the delivery of infrastructure schemes on the broad aspect of sustainable transport to support the delivery of LEZs.

Will any vehicles be exempt from the Low Emission Zone requirements?

Some categories of vehicles will be exempt from Low Emission Zone requirements. These include:

  • Police vehicles
  • Ambulance and emergency vehicles
  • Scottish Fire and Rescue
  • Her Majesty’s Coastguard
  • National Crime Agency
  • Military vehicles
  • Vehicles for disabled persons (including blue badge holders)
  • Historic vehicles
  • Showman’s vehicles

What is the definition of a historical vehicle?

A vehicle manufactured, or registered under the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994, for the first time at least 30 years ago. The vehicle is no longer in production, and the vehicle has been historically preserved or maintained in its original state and has not undergone substantial changes in the technical characteristics of its main components.

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

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

A basic vehicle registration checker is available here.

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

  • Euro 6 for diesel cars and vans (generally vehicles registered from September 2015)
  • Euro 4 for petrol cars and vans (generally vehicles registered from 2006)
  • Euro VI for buses, coaches and HGVs (generally vehicles registered from January 2013
  • (These dates are only indicative - please check to confirm with your vehicle manual or the manufacturer.)

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

How do I find out what Euro category my vehicle is?

Vehicle age can be used as a guide. For some vehicles the Euro standard information is on the inside of the (passenger or driver) door frame. For newer vehicles, the Euro emission standard information may be listed on the registration documents. In the UK, this is in the V5C (V5C registration certificate, or log book in section D.2). However, if you are in any doubt, the vehicle manufacturer will be able to provide the information to you.

Visit our registration checker here which will help advise you whether your vehicle will be compliant.

What if my car doesn't comply with LEZs?

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 grace period may also be available to those who live within a Low Emission Zone. Grace periods will be confirmed by each local authority when they confirm the design of their specific Low Emission Zone.

How can I make my views known regarding LEZs?

Local authorities will carry out a consultation on each individual town or city-specific Low Emission Zone as part of the implementation process.

Consultations for each city and contact details for enquiries/feedback can be found on the relevant local Low Emission Zones page of this website.

Will LEZs 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 also encourage people to consider how they travel in the affected cities, with the potential for more people to choose public transport or active travel instead of driving.

How will Low Emission Zones' effectiveness be measured?

The Scottish Government’s proposal is to use 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 was established using a Traffic Regulation Conditions (TRC) which was placed on bus operators by Scotland’s Traffic Commissioner.

Other local authorities have the same option.

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 want to encourage people to walk, cycle and use public transport and electric vehicles instead of traditional petrol or diesel cars. However, for the oldest and youngest in our society, and especially those people with existing health conditions, we need to take urgent action to help protect public health by improving air quality in our towns and cities.