Scotland passes Transport Bill to help improve air quality

A bill was passed in Scotland last week (October 10) to write into law amendments for Low Emission Zones (LEZs), as well as giving councils the power to introduce a workplace parking levy. 

The Transport Bill was passed two weeks after MSPs unanimously agreed to increase Scotland’s 2020 climate emission reductions to a 75% reduction from 1990 levels.

The bill saw MSPs debating amendments relating to Low Emission Zones, prohibiting vehicles from parking on pavements, council-run bus services which will entitle all people to travel on the local bus routes, and a workplace levy which will allow councils to charge workplaces for employees to drive their cars.

The amendments impose a duty on Scottish Ministers to consult with the relevant stakeholders when making regulations in relation to vehicles being driven in low emission zones.

The amendments also mean that the keeper of the vehicle will be responsible for any penalty charge and it will be a criminal offence to drive a vehicle within a low emission zone unless it falls into one of the exceptions.

The Scottish government says the measures are intended to lessen the impacts of emissions from cars.

According to Transport Scotland, the bill is designed to help make Scotland’s transport network ‘cleaner, smarter and more accessible than ever before.’

Scotland’s first LEZ came into effect in Glasgow city centre on December 31 2018. By 2020, further LEZs will be introduced in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Dundee.

Air pollution campaigner from Friends of the Earth Scotland, Gavin Thomson said: ‘MSPs recently committed to rapidly bringing down Scotland’s climate emissions.’

‘The new power delivered to the councils must be used to discourage car use, improve public transport and make it easier and safer to walk or cycle.’

‘Transport is our most polluting sector, and road transport emissions are higher than they were in 1990.’

‘Local authorities, particularly our city councils, need to transition to greener transport, bringing benefits for air quality while also reducing our climate emissions.’

Mr Thomson also commented: ‘It is hugely disappointing that the MSPs chose to retain a six-year ‘grace period’ which governs the speed of implementation of these zones.’

‘If MSPs are prepared to follow through on their climate commitments, they need to recognise this means changing our polluting, dangerous transport system. Cars must be deprioritised, and public transport needs investment and support.’

‘Let’s hope that all our councils covering towns and cities can look at this new suite of powers to plan a transport system free of fossil-fuelled pollution.’

In related news, a new funding scheme has been announced to help prepare for the introduction of Low Emission Zones (LEZ) in Scotland’s cities.

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