Glasgow city council has outlined proposals for the introduction of Scotland’s first low emission zone, aimed at tackling air pollution in the city centre.

The details were discussed in an update report to the Environment, Sustainability and Carbon Reduction City Policy Committee on Tuesday 20 March.  

The new zone, covering the city centre, is due to come into effect at 23.59 on 31 December 2018.

The proposals include an initial focus on securing cleaner bus services within the city, in an area currently covered by the city’s air quality management area. As part of this, all bus services operating within the low emission zone will be required to meet at least the Euro VI emission standard, within four years of the introduction of the LEZ.

This will mark the start of a journey which will ultimately lead to all vehicles entering the zone being fully compliant by 31 December 2022.

The Scottish Government has outlined substantial funding available to support the bus industry with LEZ. Over 70% of £10.8m funding in 2018/2019 will go towards supporting Glasgow’s bus industry to prepare for LEZs, which is enough to support the exhaust retrofitting of over 300 buses to ensure they meet the latest environmental standards.  

The report outlines the work being undertaken by the council and partners including Transport Scotland, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) and SEPA to address the various technical and legal matters associated with establishing a LEZ in Glasgow.

The report notes that it would be a “significant operational and logistical challenge” to have approximately 1,000 non-compliant buses currently operating in Glasgow brought up to such a standard for the end of 2018.

Currently between 10% and 12% of the city’s buses are thought to meet the standard, Glasgow city council claims, with compliance expected to reach 20% by December 2018, and 100% by 2022.

The report adds: “The subsequent phasing of the LEZ will apply to all vehicle types, unless exempted. Transport Scotland is currently identifying the agreed exemptions to LEZ compliance in order to ensure that there is national consistency in this matter and that no Scottish city suffers a competitive disadvantage in relation to the others.

“In addition, there may be a need for a sunset period for local residents and businesses, located within the LEZ area. This group will be given a longer period of time for compliance as unlike other groups who may avoid entry to the LEZ, this option is not available to those based within the zone.”

Phase 2, which is likely to include taxis and private cars, will be consulted on with stakeholders over the next 12 months in order that the process is proportionate and shall be supported by an economic appraisal, the council adds.

Glasgow’s LEZ will be the first of four such zones to be introduced in Scotland by the end of the decade. Other cities including Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee are expected to have similar zones in place by 2020 to address air quality.

Councillor Anna Richardson, City Convener for Sustainability and Carbon Reduction, said: "We are making real progress on our plans to have Scotland's first LEZ in place by the end of the year. Glasgow's LEZ will be the first of its kind in Scotland and has been modelled as being capable of making significant reductions in levels of air pollution in the city centre.

"It's recognised that the introduction of a LEZ needs to be proportionate and managed in such a way that ambition and practicality can be balanced. What we've seen and heard today are strong views expressed on both sides of the debate – some people who think we are going too far and some who feel we should go further and faster. Our job is to ensure the low emission zone is introduced at a robust yet realistic pace that will bring about the air quality improvements we need without having a detrimental impact on transport or Glasgow's economy and businesses.  

"While we continue to work with the bus industry to improve services – services which are vital to the lives of Glaswegians – Transport Scotland has made it clear that substantial grant funding, as well as loans, will be made available to support the bus industry and to protect passengers.

"That is why the initial phase of the LEZ will address local buses through Traffic Regulation Conditions (TRC's) set by the Traffic Commissioner. 

"Glasgow is forging a national path towards cleaner air – air that we will all benefit from. Poor air quality is a significant public health concern and a major social justice issue for Glasgow.

"Cleaner buses going through the city centre LEZ will also be travelling elsewhere and throughout our city's neighbourhoods and this is a really positive step forward in how we, as a city and as a country, go about creating healthy, liveable streets."