How Low Emission Zones work

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The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 provides the legislation to create and enforce Low Emission Zones.

The national standards for Low Emission Zones will be set when regulations are finalised.

Local authorities will then use these regulations to design each Low Emission Zone based on their own specific, local requirements.

It is proposed that:

  • Low Emission Zone entry will be based on the Euro emission engine classification standards – the proposed minimum criteria is:
      • Euro 4 for petrol cars and vans (generally vehicles registered from 2006)
      • Euro 6 for diesel cars and vans (generally vehicles registered from September 2015)
      • Euro VI for buses, coaches and HGVs (generally vehicles registered from January 2013)
      • (These dates are only indicative - please check to confirm with your vehicle manual or the manufacturer.)
  • Low Emission Zones operate continuously, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year round.
  • Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras will be used, which are linked to a national vehicle licencing database, to monitor vehicles driving in a Low Emission Zone. They will detect vehicles which do not comply with the minimum Euro emission standards.
  • The design, implementation and operation of Low Emission Zones will involve grace periods for commercial fleet operators and private vehicle owners to give them time to prepare.
  • Low Emission Zones will be based on a penalty notice approach, to discourage non-compliant vehicles from driving into the zone:
    • The initial penalty charge for all non-compliant vehicles is set at £60, reduced by 50% if it is paid within 14 days.
    • A surcharge is also proposed whereby the penalty amount doubles with each subsequent breach of the rules detected in the same LEZ. The penalty charges are capped at £480 for cars and light goods vehicles and £960 for buses and HGVs.
    • Where there are no further breaches of the rules detected within the 90 days following a previous violation, the surcharge rate is reset to the base tier of charge i.e. £60.
  • Some categories of vehicles will be exempt from Low Emission Zone requirements. These include:
    • Police vehicles
    • Ambulance and emergency vehicles
    • Scottish Fire and Rescue
    • Her Majesty’s Coastguard
    • National Crime Agency
    • Military vehicles
    • Vehicles for disabled persons (including blue badge holders)
    • Historic vehicles
    • Showman’s vehicles
  • Each year, local authorities will publish a report on the effectiveness of Low Emission Zones.

Euro emission standards

While the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 does not set the mandatory vehicle emissions standards for driving in a Low Emission Zone, it does set provisions for Ministers to create such regulations.

The consultation entitled ‘Building Scotland’s Low Emission Zones’ outlined proposals for the minimum emission standards for Low Emission Zones to be Euro 4/IV for petrol engines (generally vehicles registered from 2006), and Euro 6/VI for diesel engines (generally registered from 2016).

The use of Euro standards is commonplace across European Low Emission Zones.

A basic vehicle registration checker is available here.

Currently, vehicle age is used as a guide to the corresponding Euro classification, noting the dates when each Euro category was introduced.

  • The Euro 6 standard for diesel cars was introduced in September 2014, with any new car sold after September 2015 having to meet this standard.
  • The Euro 4 standard for petrol engines was introduced in January 2005, with any new vehicles sold after January 2006 having to meet this standard.

Support for bus operators

The Scottish Government is making over £9.75 million available in 2020/21 for the Bus Emission Abatement Retrofit Fund (BEAR) to support bus operators with the financial costs associated with engine and exhaust retrofitting.

Read the latest news on support for bus operators here.

This technology helps reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions from older buses to help them to achieve the Euro VI emission standard. Installing the retrofit technology ensures the bus is the emission equivalent of a new, modern bus.

In addition, the Scottish Green Bus Fund (SGBF) has supported 475 LEZ compliant buses into the fleet through £17.2 million in Scottish Government funding across eight annual rounds of investment.

The fund aimed to encourage more low carbon emission buses onto Scotland’s roads.

The Scottish Green Bus Fund has been replaced with the Scottish Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme.

The Scottish Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme builds on the eight rounds of the Scottish Green Bus Fund, held each year between 2011 and 2018. The new fund will increase the level of environmental protection, improve air quality, and support the acceleration of uptake of the lowest emitting bus technology in support of emissions targets. Read more about the new scheme here.

Operators of low carbon buses also remain eligible for an enhanced rate of the Bus Service Operators Grant, which further incentivises the uptake and use of green buses – click to find out more about the Bus Service Operators Grant.

Support for business/members of the public

The Scottish Government is committed to supporting the move towards cleaner, low carbon modes of transport. £3 million new funding has been made available in 2020/21 through the Low Emission Zone Support Fund to help more organisations prepare for the introduction of Low Emission Zones.

Grants are available to support the cost of retrofitting engines or exhausts on taxis, vans and HGVs to Euro 6/VI standard in order to help protect public health and meet LEZ standards or incentivise the disposal of non-compliant vehicles.

Further information on LEZ support funding is available here.

Various grants and loans are additionally available via the Energy Saving Trust.