Plans to effectively exclude the most polluting vehicles from driving into the city centre have been given the green light after Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ) was approved by Scottish Ministers.

Now formally introduced but with a one-year ‘grace period’, Glasgow’s LEZ will be enforced from 1 June 2023.

All vehicles entering the zone will be affected except for motorcycles and mopeds and those vehicle types or uses considered exempt such as vehicles for disabled persons. A penalty charge will be payable if the emission standards are not met.

Those with vehicles registered to a residential address within the zone have until 1 June 2024 before enforcement starts.

Glasgow’s LEZ is an essential measure to protect public health by tackling stubbornly high levels of harmful air pollution in our city centre. Its design also supports wider climate change ambitions by encouraging a move away from car use towards more sustainable forms of transport.

It will operate 24 hours a day – all year round and cover an area of the city centre bounded by the M8 motorway to the north and west, the River Clyde to the south and Saltmarket/High St to the east.

The inclusion of all vehicles will maximise the health and environmental benefits deliverable and builds upon the first (bus-only) phase of Glasgow’s LEZ which was introduced in 2018 and has since seen a much greater proportion of cleaner, low and zero emission local service buses travelling through our city centre.

Councillor Angus Millar, City Convener for Climate, Glasgow Green Deal, Transport and City Centre Recovery said:”I’m pleased that Glasgow’s LEZ plans have secured the backing of Scottish Ministers. Glasgow has made good progress in tackling air pollution in recent years, in no small part thanks to the success of the early stages of LEZ roll-out which has dramatically improved the emissions standards of buses on our city centre streets. But we still have stubbornly high levels of harmful air pollution in some parts of the city centre, which is why restricting access to the most polluting vehicles is vital to protect public health and ensure our city centre is a more appealing and healthier place to be. We will continue to raise awareness and understanding of Glasgow’s LEZ ahead of full enforcement as well as encourage and support compliance through a range of initiatives and projects, including those that encourage a switch to active and more sustainable forms of travel and a reduced reliance on private car.”

Joseph Carter, Head of Asthma and Lung UK Scotland said: “Glasgow’s LEZ is a game-changer for public health in the city centre and sets the precedent for the roll-out of clean air plans across Scotland’s towns and cities that will protect future generations from the dangers of breathing in dirty air. Air pollution is an invisible killer that causes new lung conditions such as lung cancer and worsens existing ones, with the potential to trigger life-threatening asthma attacks and flare-ups and can even stunt the growth of children’s lungs. We would like to see wider action to tackle toxic air throughout the city and surrounding areas, not just in the city centre. This includes safer streets for walking and cycling, cleaner public transport and pollution-busting schemes outside of all schools.” 

Minister for Transport Jenny Gilruth said: “I’m delighted that we’re proceeding to Phase 2 of Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone, after it came into effect for buses in 2018. That has already delivered air quality improvements for Glasgow so extending the LEZ to include all vehicles, and introducing them in Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen, is a truly significant public health moment. Our air quality is generally good – but for too long air pollution has exceeded legal limits for health in our city centres as a consequence of unrestricted vehicle emissions and we have a moral responsibility to act. Air pollution often disproportionally impacts those with the least in our society. It causes the most damage to the youngest, the oldest and those with pre-existing medical conditions. LEZs are the biggest change we’ve ever seen in how vehicles will access our cities – and they need to be, in order to best protect public health and improve air quality. With a year to go until the enforcement begins in Glasgow, I encourage everyone to visit to find out more about the schemes, including the Scottish Government funding on offer.”

Dr Andrew Malby from SEPA said: “We welcome today’s milestone which is significant for Scotland and built on science led by SEPA’s air modelling work as part of a partner led approach. Air pollution is one of the most important environmental health risks of our time, so the introduction of LEZs will aim to accelerate air quality improvements in the most polluted areas of our cities. SEPA is proud to play an important part in this collaborative work. SEPA worked with partners, building and presenting the evidence for councillors to make informed decisions that ultimately aims to improve air quality and the health of the local population. The early adoption of the first phase which was bus only has already accelerated air quality improvements across the city centre, particularly along busy bus corridors where cleaner buses were introduced. SEPA developed a bus-specific tool for operators and Glasgow City Council to assist in identifying key routes that would benefit from cleaner buses.” 

John Bynorth, Policy and Communications Officer at Environmental Protection Scotland said: “We believe the Low Emission Zone will be a game-changer for the health and wellbeing of people who live and work in the city by improving air quality. The LEZ builds on the council’s work to create safer streets and a more positive environment for cycling and walking. Glasgow has made impressive strides over the last few years with the introduction of segregated cycle lanes and improved pedestrian footways. Projects such as the Sauchiehall Street Avenue, the South City Way, and nextbike cycle hire initiative have contributed to making life easier for people who want to leave the car at home. “We have already seen the impact of the bus-only LEZ which has helped drive cleaner, electric and low emission bus fleets. Other measures such as bus gates have helped speed up city bus services at busy times.”

Next Steps/Funding Support

Road signage will be installed in the coming months to ensure that drivers are aware of the LEZ boundary and the alternative routes available to avoid the zone area if required.

Practical, targeted assistance from the Scottish Government to help prepare for the introduction of Low Emission Zones in Scotland has included funding for households, micro-businesses, and a separate retrofit fund including support for taxi drivers. Funding is again available in 2022, with further information available on the Energy Saving Trust website.

For full details of how the LEZ will operate including the area covered and the required emission standards, you can visit the council’s LEZ webpages.