Ministers urged to clarify how low emissions zones will be funded

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Environmental campaigners have called on the Scottish Government to clarify how low emissions zones (LEZs) will be funded ahead of a statement at Holyrood by the transport minister.

The government has announced it will work with councils to introduce LEZs in Scotland’s four biggest cities by 2020 while zones will also be set up, where necessary, in other affected areas by 2023.

The first LEZ will be established in Glasgow by the end of next year.

Aimed at improving air quality, fines would be issued to individuals and organisations who enter the zones in vehicles that do not meet designated emission standards.

Friends of the Earth Scotland has welcomed the move but called on ministers to provide “the bulk” of the necessary funding to local authorities.

Transport minister Humza Yousaf is due to deliver a ministerial statement on LEZs at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

Ahead of the statement, Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner Emilia Hanna said: “Low emission zones have been proven to be the single most effective way to tackle dangerous and toxic air.

“The Scottish Government is to be congratulated on making LEZs a priority for Scotland’s cities and setting an ambitious timetable for their delivery, but promises will be pie in the sky without the necessary funding to set up and deliver LEZs.

“The Scottish Government needs to set out details of how it will fund LEZs.

“The Scottish Government must provide the bulk of funding for low emission zones and not simply pass the bill onto cash-strapped councils.”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has urged ministers to help smaller firms upgrade vehicles following warnings as many as three-quarters of Scottish diesel vehicles could fall foul of the new LEZ rules if the strictest standards are adopted.

Andy Willox, FSB’s Scottish policy convener, said: “Lots of Scottish city-centre firms would agree that action must be taken to improve air quality.

“But many smaller businesses don’t have large cash reserves and they can’t buy a brand new van at the drop of a hat.

“Therefore, if we’re to ensure that urban Scotland continues to be a great place to do business, then financial help should be offered to firms looking to transition to lower emission vehicles.”

The FSB also called for national LEZ standards and for the zones to be phased-in over a longer period.

Mr Willox added: “Most UK and European low emission zones are phased in over a four-year period – giving businesses and locals the time to plan and adapt. The Scottish Government must adopt these sorts of sensible lead-in times.

“Further, it would not make sense to have different vehicle standards in different Scottish cities.

“A Dundee-based delivery driver shouldn’t face fines in Glasgow or Edinburgh, if his vehicle passes the test at home.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said it welcomed the proposals from FSB and that work will be done with them and others to deliver LEZs, with a commitment to bring them into the country’s four biggest cities by 2020.

He added: “We have a clear vision for Scotland’s air quality to be the best in Europe. However, air quality remains a public health issue, particularly for the youngest and oldest in our communities, and especially for those with existing respiratory conditions.

“Each LEZ must be designed for its city, and those designs are still in development, however, we are committed to providing financial support to implement LEZs in partnership with local authorities.

“The Finance Secretary will set out the Scottish Government’s draft budget plans to the Scottish Parliament on December 14.”

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