Edinburgh Low Emission Zone: Lothian MSP Miles Briggs calls for exemptions for low-paid staff and charities
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Vehicles which fail to meet strict emission standards will be banned from entering a 1.2 square mile area of the city centre from June 1, 2024, as part of the Capital’s bid to boost air quality and improve public health. The ban will affect diesel cars and vans registered before September 2015 and petrol cars and vans registered before January 2006 – an estimated 20,000 vehicles in and around Edinburgh.
Mr Briggs said many low-paid staff, including key workers, would be caught by the new rules but would not be able to afford to replace their cars, especially in the middle of a cost of living crisis. He said vehicles owned by charities operating in the city centre could also be banned as a result of the LEZ. And he urged the Scottish Government and the city council to consider exemptions or financial help.
He said: "I have been contacted by several people worried about how they are going to be affected by the LEZ. Currently their cars are not going to meet the requirements so they're going to have to get rid of them, but the cost of doing that is going to be substantial. Also charities who own vehicles which will be captured by the LEZ and it's going to be significant for some charities if they have to replace vans. I don't think the work has been done to find out who will be impacted and who can actually afford to replace their vehicles.”
There is a limited exemption scheme for the LEZ, set by the Scottish Government, which includes emergency vehicles, vehicles for people with disabilities, military vehicles, historic vehicles and showman's vehicles.
The Edinburgh LEZ was agreed by the council in 2022 but the plan included a two-year grace period to allow people to prepare. However, Mr Briggs said many people had been unaware of the plans. “l don't think many folk have actually thought about it yet. The council have only recently launched the online tool where you can put your number plate in to find out if you're impacted. I don't think there's been any advertising of what's available if you do need to get rid of your car. I certainly haven't seen any 'Be ready' until now.”
He said public transport was often not an option for NHS staff and other shift workers or people who lived further out of the city, yet they would not be able to afford a new car. “For a lot of low-paid workers replacing their car is not going to be easy unless there's some help. There's a need to look at who's going to be impacted in a year's time and work out how many are going to be penalised by this and whether or not exemptions can be applied.”
Glasgow introduced Scotland’s first LEZ on June 1 this year. Aberdeen and Dundee are due to introduce LEZs at the same time as Edinburgh. Responding to Mr Briggs’ comments, Edinburgh transport and environment convener Scott Arthur said: “The Low Emission Zone in Edinburgh has already been formally approved, but we are looking very carefully at the situation in Glasgow to see if there is anything we can learn from that, including the impact on businesses, low-paid workers and charities.”
Financial support was on offer for people on specific means-tested benefits whose vehicles do not comply with the emission standards, if they lived within a 20km radius of the zone. It included a £2,000 grant towards disposal of the vehicle and up to £1,000 per household in Travel Better vouchers to pay for bus passes, train season tickets, new or used bikes or car club membership. But the schemes are now closed.