The Scottish Government has announced details of up to £10.8 million in financial support to be made available to the four cities due to implement the country’s first Low Emission Zones.
This comes after environmental groups had raised concerns over the level of ambition shown in current plans for tackling air pollution within the country – leading two senior advisors to withdraw from the Scottish Government’s air quality advisory body.
Up to 70% of the funding package will be used to support bus operators in Glasgow to prepare for the introduction of the city’s LEZ – the first in the country – which is due to be in place before the end of the year and will initially target buses.
Glasgow’s proposals will see all bus services operating within the low emission zone required to meet at least the Euro VI emission standard, within four years of the introduction of the LEZ.
Currently between 10% and 12% of the city’s buses are thought to meet the standard, Glasgow city council claims, with compliance expected to reach 20% by December 2018, and 100% by 2022.
According to the Scottish Government, the latest funding round will be enough to retrofit over 300 buses operating in the city, more than 40% of the Glasgow fleet.
Glasgow’s LEZ will be the first of four such zones to be introduced in Scotland by the end of the decade. Other cities including Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee are expected to have similar zones in place by 2020 to address air quality.
However, campaigners have called for more ambition to tackle pollution from a wider range of sources in the city.
The Scottish Government has also announced an addition to its Cleaner Air for Scotland Governance Group, which oversees the delivery of Scotland’s clean air strategy, and was rocked by the departure of two members last week in response to Glasgow’s LEZ plans.
British Heart Foundation Scotland (BHF) and Professor Campbell Gemmell, an expert in environmental science, policy and regulation has been announced as the latest member of the group.
His appointment comes after two senior advisors – Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Air Pollution Campaigner Emilia Hanna and former SEPA chief executive Professor James Curran, representing the Scottish Environment LINK body – stepped down from the group last week.
The pair, who spoke on behalf of a number of Scotland’s green groups, had called for more ambition in Scotland’s LEZ plans, and claimed that they were “frustrated by a lack of progressâ€? in moving the plans forward.
In a letter to the Cleaner Air For Scotland Governance Group, Scottish Environment LINK stated: “For two years the LINK representatives have made every constructive effort to inject ambition and urgency into the creation of Low Emission Zones in Scotland. At nearly every single stage they have felt frustrated by lack of progress.â€?
In the wake of the funding announcement, Friends of the Earth Scotland has called for Glasgow council to implement a ‘more ambitious’ strategy to reach air quality targets.
Welcoming the funding, the group’s director Dr Richard Dixon said: “This is good news for the people of Glasgow. We have been seeking clarification for months over funding for the Low Emission Zone in Glasgow. Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh will all benefit but the lion’s share will go to Glasgow for the first Low Emission Zone in Scotland.
“£8 million will allow hundreds of buses to have their exhausts upgraded to meet the latest air pollution standards, which means Glasgow city council can now plan to deliver clean air in the city much faster than the current draft proposals.â€?