Motorists face £20 ‘pollution charge’ to drive in Edinburgh by 2020

St Johns Road has high levels of air polution caused by traffic. Pic: Steven Scott Taylor
St Johns Road has high levels of air polution caused by traffic. Pic: Steven Scott Taylor
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Motorists face being hit with £20 a day fines to drive in the city centre unless their vehicles have the cleanest engines under plans for the first low emission zone in the Capital.

The zones, which would operate round the clock and be enforced using cameras recording vehicle number plates, could be introduced in the city by 2020 and would affect most diesel cars on the road today.

Glasgow city centre is expected to be established as the first zone by the end of next year with areas of Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee to follow two years later.

While the exact location of the city centre is not yet known, the charge would be ten times the £2 a day congestion charge proposed for Edinburgh 15 years ago which planned a zone around the city centre stretching from Stockbridge to Newington. There could be exemptions for blue badge holders, emergency vehicles, bin lorries, and night shift workers when no public transport was available.

An official consultation, announced by Nicola Sturgeon in her Programme for Government for the next year, reveals the penalty charges could be imposed on petrol cars made before 2005 and diesels with engines made before 2014.

Environmental campaigners welcomed the move but drivers have hit out at the proposals ahead of the two-month consultation.

RAC spokesman Nicholas Lyes said: “These proposals will have motorists reeling at the thought that they could be banned from driving in certain areas as early as next year if they drive a diesel vehicle that is registered prior to September 2014.

“If they flout the ban, drivers in the wrong vehicles could face a costly fine. Nobody doubts the need for bold decisions being made to tackle Scotland’s pollution issue in its biggest cities, however, the outlined measures could have serious financial and practical impacts on those living and working in and around these cities.”

But Lothian Bus managing director Richard Hall said they are already working towards low emission objectives.

“We have most recently introduced 45 new low-emission Euro 6 vehicles to our Service 26 and Airlink operations to target specific environmental issues in St John’s Road, Edinburgh. We welcome today’s announcement and are already committed to all of our vehicles being at Euro 5 standard or above, diesel-electric hybrid or zero emission full-electric operation by 2020.”

And Green councillor Chas Booth added: “I pushed for Edinburgh to be at the head of the queue for a low emission zone straight after the election.”