Increased awareness and evolving opinion on Low Emission Zones revealed

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A recent survey, commissioned by Transport Scotland, has revealed a growing awareness of Scotland’s Low Emission Zones (LEZs) with 72% of individuals and 84% of businesses stating that they know about the zones. This compares to 48% and 72% from the initial baseline study carried out in early 2019.

The survey was undertaken earlier this year - before Scotland’s Low Emission Zones were introduced in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow on 31 May.

It sought to gather data on the level of awareness and understanding of Low Emission Zones from a representative sample of the general public and businesses across Scotland and to allow for comparison with the 2019 findings.

General population survey

Awareness of LEZs significantly increased from 48% in 2019 to 72% in 2022. Encouragingly, 75% of motorists had heard about LEZs, as the group that will be most impacted by LEZs. Others most likely to be aware of LEZs were those living in a LEZ area (74%) and those that travelled into a LEZ (74%).

The city that most people knew was introducing a LEZ was Glasgow (61.4%), with Edinburgh closely behind at 55%. 36.5% of respondents knew about Aberdeen’s LEZ, while 28.9% knew about Dundee’s LEZ.

Almost half of respondents had seen or heard information about Low Emission Zones recently, with the top sources being TV (44%) and social media (37%). Awareness of LEZs was greatest in the 16-24 age group (58%) and 24-34 (60%).

Recall of hearing or seeing something about LEZs is good, 44% recalled that LEZs will help improve air quality, with others picking up the messaging about the date of LEZ introductions (64.1%), the cities involved (53%) and that some vehicles would not be compliant (51.6%).

Agreement with the concept of LEZs remains strong. 94% of respondents agreed that if air quality is poor then something should be done to improve this, with 81% agreeing the Low Emission Zones are a good option where air quality is poor.

Vehicle restrictions (70% agreement, down from 72% in 2019) and penalty notices (58% agreement compared with 59% in 2019) are less popular measures.

When it comes to changing habits and making the switch to less polluting vehicles to meet LEZ requirements, 23% believe this would be difficult, a substantial drop from 41% in 2019. In 2019, 40% of people stated they didn’t have the right information to make a change, and again, this has dropped significantly to 23% this year. Cost is still seen as the most significant barrier to change (80%).

Since 2019, travel to Scottish cities by car has increased with less people travelling by train and bus.

As in 2019, air pollution was the fourth most mentioned issue. A significant increase in concern for climate change has resulted in a decrease in concern for other environmental issues. People are now more aware of the effects of air quality on health and wellbeing (67% know a lot or a little in 2022 compared to 51% in 2019).

Business survey

84% of businesses surveyed had heard about Low Emission Zones, compared to 72% in 2019.

When asked if they had heard of LEZs before, 88% of vehicle fleet owners said yes, while 79% who had no fleet also said yes. 86% of those who travel to one of the LEZs and 78% who do not travel to LEZs were aware of them.

71% recalled Glasgow was introducing a LEZ, followed by 67% who knew of Edinburgh. 40% were aware Aberdeen was a LEZ city and 39% remembered Dundee.

32% of those who had heard of LEZs had heard or seen recent communications. The majority of this was on social media (36%) or on TV (22%).

62% of respondents recalled the introduction dates of LEZs, and 60% remembered that some vehicles will not be compliant. 46% knew the cities they are being introduced in, while 40% knew that they are being introduced in order to improve air quality.

As with the general population survey, 91% agreed that something should be done about poor air quality if it is affecting Scotland. 74% agreed Low Emission Zones are a good idea where air quality is poor. However, just 36% agreed with Penalty Notices – lower levels of agreement than in 2019 (52%).

There has been a significant increase in businesses leasing vehicles as opposed to owning them (43% in 2022 compared to 26% in 2019) and in businesses whose fleets contain electric and hybrid vehicles, with both going up from 4% to 23%.

Businesses are now more likely to have plans to change their fleets to lower emission vehicles, with 42% saying they would (compared to 26% in 2019).

52% of businesses said they plan to change to electric/hybrid vehicles, compared to 13% in 2019, with a further 10% saying that are already in the process of changing or renewing vehicles.

79% said that emissions would be a factor in any decisions they made about buying vehicles (compared to 74% in 2019) and 66% said that LEZs would influence their buying decision (down slightly from 73% in 2019).

When asked about how they travel into the four LEZ cities, the number of journeys made by company car, work van or commercial vehicles were between 71-81%. This is a substantial decrease from 2019 when these were all over 90%, with Dundee being particularly high at 98%. 26% said they had not travelled to any of these cities in the last year, compared to 33% in 2019.*

Both surveys reveal an increased level of awareness of LEZs, where they are, and what they mean. Since 2019, more people are aware of the effect of climate change and poor air quality, particularly with regard to health and wellbeing. More people are willing to consider alternative vehicles and stated that emissions would factor into any buying decision.

With a year to go until the earliest enforcement in Glasgow (1 June 2023), and two years until enforcement begins in Dundee (30 May 2024), Edinburgh and Aberdeen (1 June 2024), communications and marketing will continue at a local authority and national level. With a clear trend of improvement in awareness since 2019, we expect awareness to continue to grow ahead of enforcement commencing.

Low Emission Zones keep the most polluting vehicles out of our city centres to reduce emissions, protect public health and improve air quality. You can find out more about the Local LEZs

*(Please note, the 2019 survey was spread across all local authorities in Scotland rather than just the areas nearest the 4 LEZ cities, so this is a particularly significant decrease).