A low-emission zone (LEZ) is a defined area where access by some polluting vehicles is restricted or deterred with the aim of improving the air quality.

We support ambitious Low Emission Zones

Glasgow will host Scotland’s first Low Emission Zone. However, the initial criteria will only impact buses and we will not see significant improvements in our air quality for many years.

The Scottish Government has committed to LEZs in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Dundee. We are working to push each City Council to ensure the Low Emission Zones genuinely protect human health.

Read our response to the LEZ consultation

Traffic is the key cause of Scotland’s pollution crisis. In our urban areas, we need to keep the most polluting vehicles out of the most polluted places, which is exactly what LEZs can achieve. LEZs are a major piece in the puzzle of transport policies that the Scottish Government must introduce to safeguard our right to clean air.

Do LEZs exist anywhere else? How do they work?

There are over 200 LEZs across Europe, with over 70 in Germany, but there are many different ways to introduce and implement a LEZ with differing levels of success.

Berlin’s LEZ:

  • introduced in 2008
  • achieved a 58% overall reduction in PM emissions within the first three years
  • applied a Euro 4 emission standard to all diesel vehicles including cars.

Motorists have to display a sticker on their windows showing their vehicle’s Euro standard, and if they do not have a Euro 4 sticker and are discovered in the zone have to pay a fine of €80, which is enforced by wardens.

London’s LEZ:

  • Introduced in 2008 which covers a large area Greater London
  • Currently only applies vehicle restrictions to buses, lorries, and vans.
  • If these vehicles are found within the zone with the wrong emissions standard they must pay a fine of £200 which is enforced by the police using automatic number plate recognition technology which is linked to a database.
  • The London LEZ is due to apply to cars within a small area (the same area as London’s congestion charge) from next year. That area will then widen to cover a larger area which spans all the way to the north circular from 2021.

We are calling for strong and ambitious Low Emission Zones:

  • LEZs will be introduced in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Dundee. These are all cities which have ongoing illegal levels of pollution and with large populations who are exposed to unsafe toxic air every day.
  • Buses, coaches, minibuses, HGVs, large vans & small vans should be included in all the LEZs as early as possible.
  • Taxi & Public Hire Vehicles should then incorporated, before finally expanding to all cars, motorcycles, and mopeds.
  • The area of the zones should encompass all areas with regular breaches of air quality safety standards.
  • The Scottish Government should support buses to upgrade and retrofit their fleets through funding to ensure there are clean bus fleets operating in our most densely populated areas.
  • The Scottish Government should make funding available to councils to introduce the zones.

What’s the background to LEZs in Scotland?

Since we started campaigning for the delivery of LEZs in 2013, the following milestones have been hit:

  • In 2016 the Scottish Government promised to deliver Scotland’s first LEZ by 2018, working closely with a local authority.
  • Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Perth & Kinross City Councils all expressed an interest in introducing a LEZ in their most polluted areas in 2017.
  • In September 2017 the Scottish Government built upon its promise to have one LEZ by 2018, and committed to work with local authorities to introduce LEZs in our four biggest cities by 2020 and, where necessary, in all other Pollution Zones by 2023.
  • In October 2017, the Scottish Government confirmed that Glasgow would be home to Scotland’s first LEZ.
  • On 31st December 2018, Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone (which will only impact on buses for the first 4 years) came into force. This is Scotland’s first Low Emission Zone.
  • In October 2019, Parliament passed the Transport Bill which contained the legal provisions for Low Emission Zones. Now every council has the power to introduce a Low Emission Zone.

How you can help introduce, or strengthen, a LEZ in your area

  • Contact your Councillors to tell them you want a LEZ, and ask them to progress the development of a LEZ. Find out which committees are tasked with taking this on.
  • You might also consider contacting your local media by writing them a letter about why a LEZ is a good idea in your area.

If you want any more advice on how LEZs might work in your area or how you can support their development locally, contact our air pollution campaigner Gavin Thomson