Separating fact from fiction around Scotland’s Low Emission Zones

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Low Emission Zones (LEZs) are designed to protect public health by improving air quality. Scotland enjoys good air quality compared to much of Europe, but further and continued improvement is necessary to protect human health.

This is why Scotland’s LEZs were introduced on 31 May 2022. Glasgow’s LEZ commenced enforcement on 1 June 2023. Dundee’s LEZ will be enforced on 30 May 2024 while Aberdeen and Edinburgh’s LEZs will be enforced on 1 June 2024.

Ahead of wider enforcement, it’s important to tackle some of the myths around LEZs and remind people driving into Scotland’s four LEZ areas what they can expect.

Myth – air pollution isn’t a problem

Truth – air quality is improving in Scotland, but there is no safe level of air pollution

In Europe, 320 cities have LEZ schemes – an increase of 40% since 2019[1]. LEZs have rapidly expanded across Europe in response to growing understanding around the dangers of air pollution caused by vehicle emissions to the youngest, oldest and those with pre-existing medical conditions.

There is no safe level of air pollution[2]. That is the emerging global scientific and medical consensus. Research from the University of Dundee in 2014 by Professor Jill Belch, found that around half of 35,000 respiratory hospital emissions for children (aged 16 and under) over a 14 year period were associated with elevated air pollution[3].

LEZs will help us meet minimum standards – but these minimum standards cannot be the extent of our ambitions. Further air quality improvements will deliver continued benefits to communities across Scotland.

Myth – LEZs damage footfall and harm the economy

Truth – It is not accurate to claim that LEZs impact city centre activity

Only Glasgow has undertaken LEZ enforcement in Scotland so far. Most vehicles entering Glasgow are already compliant[4]. Footfall metrics are available from the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce[5]. It reports that weekends are at 100% of pre-COVID figures and weekdays are 85%.

Night-time footfall is at 116% of pre-COVID levels, and daytime (6am to 8pm) is at 85%.

On that basis, we can say that weekends and evenings have recovered, however the weekday figures point to slower growth, perhaps due to lower return to work rates. It is clear there are many other factors at play – including post-COVID work patterns and the cost crisis.

This said, city centre footfall in Glasgow has bounced back to pre-covid levels at weekends, with evening footfall now higher than it was before the pandemic.

Myth – Only electric vehicles are allowed to be driven in a LEZ

Truth – The majority of vehicles including petrol and diesel vehicles can be driven in a LEZ

LEZ requirements are in place to restrict access to the most polluting vehicles and ensure that owners of non-compliant vehicles will face a penalty if they drive in a LEZ. Non-compliant vehicles are banned from being driven in a LEZ, though some exemptions apply.

You can check if your vehicle is eligible by visiting the official registration checker.

LEZ emission standards are based on the Euro emission standards, and are as follows:

  • Euro 4 for petrol cars and vans
  • Euro 6 for diesel cars and vans

Another myth we encounter is that 1 in 3 of Scotland’s vehicles will be impacted by LEZs. This reporting is misleading. Overall vehicle compliance is around 75% – with car compliance closer to 80% – but even this isn’t the complete picture. Not all of Scotland’s cars will travel to the four cities. As such, separate analysis and modelling for Scotland’s Low Emission Zones shows likely compliance rates of around 85% or higher.

Myth – This is an unfair scheme that impacts disabled people

Truth – Blue Badge holders are exempt from LEZ restrictions

Blue Badge holders are exempt from LEZ restrictions if their vehicle they are driving in is non-compliant. As such, disabled people are not impacted by the introduction of LEZs.

Full information on the Blue Bade Holder Exemption process is available on the LEZ Scotland website.

Myth – Scotland’s LEZs cover the entire city

Truth – LEZs are in the city centre on certain city roads

LEZs cover certain city roads within the city centre in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow and are approximately 1 mile square in area.

Find out about each local LEZ boundary area at the respective local authority websites:





Myth – You have to pay to enter a LEZ

Truth – You cannot pay to access a LEZ

You cannot pay to enter a LEZ. Owners of non-compliant vehicles will receive Penalty Charge Notices if they drive within the LEZ.

Myth – People and businesses are being left unsupported by these changes

Truth – There has been continuous and sustained support for people who need it most

The Scottish Government is providing £5 million to re-open the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) Support Fund for 2024-25. For the fifth year in a row, the fund continues to offer cash incentives and Travel Better credits, if non-compliant vehicles are removed from Scotland’s roads.

Delivered through Energy Saving Trust, this programme is means-tested and offers help to those most affected by the introduction of LEZs. It provides people and micro-businesses with financial support to travel more sustainably and meet the established air quality standards which will improve air quality and protect public health.

The Low Emission Zone Support Fund provides households and smaller businesses with a grant of £2000 to incentivise disposal of a non-LEZ standard vehicle. It also offers up to a further £1000 in mobility grants or Travel Better credits to purchase a bike, e-bike or public transport vouchers.

Since 2019, the Scottish Government has provided over £13 million through the Low Emission Zone Support Fund. Over 4000 non-compliant vehicles have been disposed of or retrofitted with cleaner technology. This number includes support for taxi drivers, with over 450 taxis being retrofitted with the help of grant funding since 2019. At the same time it has encouraged a shift towards sustainable transport options – enabling the purchase of over 2000 bikes, e-bikes or cargo bikes for homes and businesses. Low Emission Zones also work to support climate action. Schemes like free bus travel for under 22’s, the peak fare removal pilot on ScotRail services and a rapid expansion of active travel infrastructure across Scotland – are all making it easier for more people to choose healthier and more sustainable transport.

Myth – LEZs focus on individual drivers of cars and vans instead of buses

Truth – Buses also need to comply with LEZs and are part of the solution to air quality challenges

In terms of shifting people away from cars, each double decker bus has the potential to remove up to 75 private cars from the road. Buses have always been part of the solution in offering less congestion and lower transport emissions. Buses are required to meet emission standards to enter Scotland’s LEZs. Buses which meet emission standards or are zero-emission, offer even greater benefits for communities.

The Bus Emission Abatement Retrofit (BEAR) grant funding supports bus operators with the financial costs associated with engine and exhaust retrofitting to reduce emissions and improve air quality.

The BEAR fund has provided £24m in Scottish Government grants for over 1100 buses and coaches to reduce NOx (nitrogen oxides) and particulates by retrofitting Euro 6 exhaust systems.

While ultimately the switch to electric buses will be a welcome improvement the BEAR funding offers an effective solution for hundreds of mid-life buses used daily within Scotland and is already delivering significant reductions in emissions.

In terms of electric buses – since 2020, the Scottish Government has supported operators to acquire 548 zero emission buses and supporting infrastructure with £113 million capital bringing the total number of zero emission buses in Scotland from less than 20, to nearly 600.


[1] The-development-trends-of-low-emission-and-zero-emission-zones-in-Europe-1.pdf (

[2] Air pollution: science shows there’s no safe limit – here’s how laws must change (

[3] Children are more vulnerable to poor air quality, says Dundee study - BBC News

[4] Glasgow's Low Emission Zone is now in force (

[5] City Centre Performance Dashboard | Glasgow Chamber of Commerce