SCOTLAND’S first low-emission zone (LEZ) is to come into effect at the start of 2019, according to proposals unveiled yesterday.

The Glasgow city centre zone will initially crack down on bus pollution, with all vehicles to be compliant with restricted emissions in the area by the end of 2022. The move, which is to be followed with zones in Scotland’s other cities, was first announced last year, but environmental campaigners have hit out at the plans saying they do not go far enough.

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Friends of the Earth Scotland labelled it a “No-Ambition Zone” and said Glasgow City Council’s LEZ proposals would only apply to 20 per cent of buses when it comes into effect.

The council said it is working with bus operators and using government funding to retrofit fleets, making them compliant with emission targets.

Councillor Anna Richardson, the convener for sustainability and carbon reduction, has defended the phased introduction of the policy.

She said: “While we continue to work with the bus industry to improve services – services which are vital to the lives of Glaswegians – it’s recognised the introduction of an LEZ needs to be proportionate and managed in such a way that ambition and practicality can be balanced.

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“That is why the initial phase of the LEZ will address local buses through Traffic Regulation Conditions set by the traffic commissioner. Buses will be expected to meet Euro VI emission standard by December 2022.

“All other vehicles will also have to be compliant by that date, so we will be engaging widely with residents and businesses to ensure everyone is aware of and prepared for the LEZ.

“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.”

Emilia Hanna of Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “The people of Glasgow were promised a low-emission zone, but these proposals will create a ‘no-ambition zone’ that does almost nothing to speed up air quality improvements so desperately needed in the city.

“The proposals condemn Glasgow to illegal air for years to come and must be urgently improved. Councillors must recommend these proposals be significantly improved when they discuss them next week or they will have failed the people of Glasgow who suffer daily from the health impacts of air pollution.

“What Glasgow does also sets the benchmark for the LEZs to come in Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh in 2020, so it is critical to set the bar high.

“An LEZ should keep polluting vehicles out of the most polluted places. This plan is even worse than initially envisaged – not only will the zone fail to catch dirty vans and lorries but it will only apply to a tiny fraction of buses.

“An LEZ which has no signs to mark it, no new cameras to catch offenders and continues to allow almost every dirty vehicle into the city centre, is not a low-emission zone.”