Environmental campaigners in Scotland have warned that MSPs are weakening the country’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ) plans and undermining their ability to tackle air pollution.
Last week, MSPs on the Rural Economy Economy and Connectivity Committee passed a series of amendments during Stage 2 of the Transport Bill which set out the provisions for Low Emission Zones in Scotland.
Various amendments were passed which relate to the length of ‘grace periods’ – the speed of the implementation of the LEZ – the powers of a local authority to suspend or revoke their Zone, and the exemptions for various vehicles, such as funfairs, and the oldest cars on the road.
Glasgow was the first city in Scotland to introduce a LEZ, which has been in operation since January and currently only affects buses, with LEZs set to follow in Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen before the end of 2020.
Edinburgh published its LEZ plans last month. Older and more polluting private cars will be charged to enter a city centre zone with buses, coaches and commercial vehicles charged to enter a wider boundary.
Edinburgh council say they will allow grace periods for owners of vehicles to give them time to prepare, with an extended grace period for residents living in LEZ areas.
Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Air Pollution Campaigner Gavin Thomson, said: ‘We welcome the legal basis for creating Low Emission Zones, but the decisions taken today by MSPs don’t take air pollution seriously.
‘There is a public health crisis and a climate emergency that need to be urgently addressed through improvements to how we travel around. But this Bill falls far short of doing what the health and scientific evidence shows us is needed.
‘The Zones will be introduced very slowly, with long grace periods, with the Zones potentially not fully in place until as late as 2026.
‘To put that length of time in perspective, 20,000 people could die prematurely in Scotland because of air pollution from traffic in the next 8 years. Every year that politicians delay means another year of young people’s development damaged by toxic traffic fumes.’