Edinburgh and Glasgow square up over first Low Emission Zone

Both Edinburgh and Glasgow are vying to secure the pilot scheme. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
Both Edinburgh and Glasgow are vying to secure the pilot scheme. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
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GLASGOW has insisted it will beat Edinburgh to secure Scotland’s first Low Emission Zone (LEZ) – but the Capital isn’t going to give up that easily.

As the battle for cleaner air continues, Glasgow City Council has said it wants to push ahead with the pilot project as soon as possible.

The scheme, funded by the Scottish Government, would see lorries, vans and buses – and possibly eventually some cars – which do not meet emission standards fined for driving within a designated area in the city centre. Ahead of the council election earlier this month, the SNP and Greens both pledged to create an LEZ in Glasgow’s Merchant City area, although this could be extended.

And just last week councillors in Edinburgh also threw their force behind the idea, agreeing to approach the Scottish Government for talks.

Green councillor Chas Booth described poor air quality as a public health emergency and said the council would do everything it could to secure the scheme for the Capital.

He said: “It is essential that we take firm action to bring our air pollution within legal limits. People are dying prematurely because of poor air quality and it’s essential that we get to grips with that.

“It’s clear that one of the best ways to bring our air quality within legal limits is by introducing a low emission zone.

“It would be devastating if Edinburgh lost out in the battle for cleaner air simply because Glasgow got there first.”

The Scottish Government has said it will help to finance one pilot project by the end of next year.

Last week councillors in Edinburgh passed a motion in favour of creating an LEZ, resolving that the city should “take the lead” on the issue.

The environmental race between Scotland’s two largest cities was welcomed by green campaign group Friends of the Earth Scotland, which predicted Glasgow would come out as winner.

Dr Richard Dixon, the group’s director, said: “It is important that Scotland’s cities are recognising the seriousness of our air pollution problems and taking steps to implement the solutions that will protect citizens.

“Glasgow is undoubtedly the front runner in the race. Air pollution is a health crisis, responsible for over 300 early deaths in the city every year and still at unsafe levels years after a legal deadline.”

A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland said it was currently reviewing the regulations on enforcing LEZs and would launch a public consultation on the issue over the summer, giving drivers the opportunity to lodge objections.

“We are determined to improve air quality and are working to ensure Scotland’s first low emission zone is in place next year in one of Scotland’s four major cities,” she added. “The Scottish Government is liaising closely with local authorities and other partners to identify the first LEZ early adopter, following the local elections where LEZs were noted as a key environmental commitment in a number of manifestos.”

florence.snead@jpress.co.uk