1 Million Vehicles to be Barred from Scottish City Centres

Dismay among business leaders in Edinburgh, Dundee, and Aberdeen over Low Emission Zones
Written by Jim Belt in News 15 May 2024

A significant shift is on the horizon for car enthusiasts and business owners alike in Scotland. Within weeks, one million vehicles will be prohibited from entering three major cities as the SNP expands its Low Emission Zones (LEZs).

Business leaders in Aberdeen, Dundee, and Edinburgh are vocal about their frustration, especially since scientific data indicated that emissions were within legal limits last year. They argue the zones inflict massive inconvenience and financial burden on taxpayers, echoing the sentiment already felt by their counterparts in Glasgow.

Glasgow's LEZ Impact

The first LEZ in Glasgow, introduced last year, has been met with skepticism. Data reveals no positive impact on air pollution; in fact, nitrogen dioxide levels have increased. The local authority spent over £700,000 hiring compliant vehicles, despite assuring the public they had ample time to prepare.

The Business Toll

For business owners like Stephen Bennett, the LEZ rules are proving to be the final straw. Bennett, who runs Casa Di Gelato in Dundee, is being forced to relocate due to his non-compliant work vans. The cost of replacing these specialized vehicles is prohibitive, potentially reaching £100,000 for a new one or half that for a second-hand option. Bennett had plans to expand his shop into a manufacturing site but now must move due to the restrictions.

Figures indicate that 1,078,580 vehicles, about a third of those registered in Scotland, will be banned from the four largest cities. Non-compliant cars, typically diesel models from before 2015 and petrol ones from before 2006, face £60 fines for each entry into an LEZ. Since last June, Glasgow alone has issued fines totaling approximately £3.5 million.

Public Opposition

Dundee’s LEZ enforcement begins on May 30, with Aberdeen and Edinburgh following on June 1. A survey of over 2,700 people revealed that 90% opposed the Aberdeen LEZ, fearing it would deter visits to the city center. The Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce suggests reviewing the impact of recent bus gate measures before implementing further restrictions on motorists.

Alison Henderson, CEO of Dundee and Angus Chamber of Commerce, expressed concern over additional costs to businesses, especially in the current challenging climate for hospitality and high street sectors. Similarly, the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce highlighted the ongoing struggles of the hospitality industry, stressing that the LEZ should not exacerbate these difficulties.

Political and Official Responses

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Graham Simpson criticized the SNP for ignoring community and business concerns about LEZs. Meanwhile, Scott Arthur, City of Edinburgh Council transport convener, emphasized that an information campaign started two years ago to prepare the public and avoid penalties.

Transport Scotland, a Scottish Government agency, maintains that LEZs are crucial for protecting public health by improving local air quality.

As the debate continues, the car and truck community watches closely, understanding that these changes not only affect business logistics but also the very essence of vehicle culture in Scotland.