Time to learn the LEZ lessons

Wednesday October 11th 2023

Edinburgh LEZ Vans

This View has been written by Garry Clark, Development Manager – East of Scotland, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)

£600,000. That’s how much motorists in Glasgow have had to fork out in fines during the first two months of the new Low Emission Zone (LEZ) since enforcement began in June. In June next year, Edinburgh’s LEZ will begin to be enforced too and vehicles travelling in and out of the centre of the city will face similar fines if they don’t meet the emissions criteria. What are these criteria? Well, as a general rule, petrol vehicles made after 2006 and diesel vehicles made after 2015 should be compliant, although it’s best to double check.

For small businesses, it could be a major headache if you are running a diesel van built before 2015. According to Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) figures, only half of diesel cars and two thirds of Large Goods Vehicles currently visiting Edinburgh city centre are compliant and it’s these vehicles that will attract most of the fines come next June.

Many small businesses need to access Edinburgh to work. They might need to carry tools securely, or deliver a bunch of flowers, or collect some furniture. They might have travelled from Gorebridge, or Galston, or Golspie. They may visit the city several time a week or once in a blue moon. But if their vehicle doesn’t meet the criteria, they will be liable for a fine – each and every time they enter the zone.

The Federation of Small Businesses believes that it’s time for government to learn some lessons from the Glasgow experience before LEZs go live in Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen next year. The Scottish Government and councils should be analysing the data from Glasgow on what types of vehicle are picking up these fines and why. Is it private motorists or people on business? Is it locals or people visiting the city? Is it cars or vans?

Understanding the impact in Glasgow will be key to ensuring a smooth introduction of the Edinburgh LEZ next year. Everyone wants a better and healthier environment but there remains a need to achieve this in a way that limits the cost on businesses in Midlothian and elsewhere. If it is shown that businesses have been attracting fines in Glasgow, then what more can we do to help businesses invest in upgrading their vehicles? The Scottish Government recently reopened a fund aimed at helping businesses with fewer than 10 employees to replace or upgrade their older vehicles, but could this be extended to larger small businesses or to offer more generous support?

We know that pollution levels inside Edinburgh’s LEZ are already below the environmental targets that it was set up to meet, so could certain groups be given more time to comply? Or could additional exemptions be made? These are questions that can only be answered following a timely examination of the evidence from Glasgow, but the fact that our friends over in the west have trailblazed the Low Emission Zone concept should allow us to learn from their experiences and ensure that the launch of the Edinburgh LEZ in 2024 is a win for the environment and not a loss for business.

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