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Scotland's first low-emission zone launches in Glasgow

Campaigners described the city's current levels of air pollution as 'toxic' and 'illegal'.

Scotland's first low-emission zone (LEZ) will be introduced in Glasgow on Monday.

The LEZ will be introduced in phases, and to start with will only apply to local service buses.

But by 2022, all vehicles entering the LEZ zone will have to meet the specified exhaust emission in order to operate in the area.

What is a low-emission zone?

A low-emission zone is an area where a person may not drive a vehicle which does not meet a specified emission standard.

LEZs are intended to reduce pollution levels and improve air quality in areas where standards are not being met.

They implement a penalty notice approach to effectively ban non-compliant vehicles.

Buses: Must comply with European emissions standards.
Buses: Must comply with European emissions standards. PA

Why is Glasgow introducing a low-emission zone?

Air pollution impacts negatively on human health; particularly so for the very young, the elderly and those with existing respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.

In Glasgow city centre, levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide are being recorded at levels which do not meet statutory expectations. The main source of this air pollutant within the city is from road traffic.

A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said the strategy will deliver a "manageable, yet robust" approach to reducing pollution.

"Glasgow is committed to cleaning up the air and is leading the way by introducing Scotland's first low-emission zone at the end of the year," she said.

"Glasgow's LEZ is modelled as being capable of making significant reductions in levels of air pollution in the city centre. Focusing initially on local service buses, the strict emission standards required to enter the LEZ will apply to all vehicles by the end of 2022.

"This pragmatic and phased approach will ensure a manageable, yet robust timetable for implementation that looks at the city's overall needs to ensure it won't have a detrimental impact on people's lives, businesses and the vitality of the city centre."

What is the benefit of a low-emission zone?

A zone like the one being introduced in Glasgow is capable of bringing about a significant improvement in air quality.

The council hopes its impact will make Glasgow city centre more pleasant and attractive for those living, working and visiting here.

"Glasgow's LEZ is a progressive policy that will deliver cleaner air for the people of Glasgow" their spokeswoman said.

Air Pollution: Affects people living in Glasgow.
Air Pollution: Affects people living in Glasgow. PA

Will it work?

Campaigners believe the LEZ will not bring about significant change.

They say the plan to phase out the dirtiest buses in the city centre over a five-year period will bring almost no change in the first year, and they have criticised the decision not to impose restrictions on all other vehicles until 2022.

Air pollution campaigner Gavin Thomson said: "The toxic, illegal levels of air pollution in Glasgow causes hundreds of premature deaths and life-limiting conditions.

"Unfortunately, the weak terms of this low-emission zone - only applying to one in five buses - won't achieve any significant change for air quality.

"This 'no ambition zone' means fumes from transport in the centre of Glasgow will carry on poisoning people's lungs for many more years.

"Around 18% of buses in Glasgow already met the emission standards before the zone was decided, so there will be very little change in the fleet."

Councils in Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen have discussed following Glasgow in bringing in LEZs.

Mr Thomson said councils must be bold in their approach to tackling pollution.

"Three hundred premature deaths are caused by air pollution in Glasgow every year. We need bolder action by the council, and bus companies need to prioritise people over profits.

"We need our other city councils across Scotland to be bolder than Glasgow.

"With Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen all planning their low-emission zones for 2020, there is an opportunity for cities to set a path to clean air, compel bus companies to clean up their fleet, and remove the worst polluting vehicles from city centres.

"Air pollution from transport is causing an urgent public health crisis and councils need to show leadership."

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