From Thursday June 1, any driver taking a vehicle into the Glasgow Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) which is not either compliant with standards or exempt will be hit with a penalty charge.

Roughly speaking, if you have a diesel engine vehicle registered before September 2015 or a petrol vehicle registered pre-2006, you will likely be fined. However, drivers even of more recently registered cars are advised to check either via the online vehicle checker at

Glasgow LEZ  is the first of four low emissions zones to be launched in Scotland and, in the run-up to its start, there is still confusion and anger, as well as questions over how necessary it is, and what impact it is likely to have on businesses working in the zone.

What will happen if I drive my car into the low emission zone?

Automatic numberplate recognition technology will be watching you – and, if your car is not compliant, you will be issued with a £60 fine, which, if paid in two weeks, will be halved. Only one fine will be issued in a day, no matter how many times your vehicle enters or leaves.

However, the system follows a stepped surcharge, in which the penalty doubles with each breaking of the rules, up to a cap of £480 for cars and £960 for HGVs and buses. After 90 days have passed without the vehicle entering the zone, the charge is dropped again to £60.

Across Scotland just over a fifth of vehicles do not meet emissions standards. The lowest compliance is among diesel cars.

Is this part of the Net Zero strategy?

No. It’s chiefly about NO2 emissions which are harmful to human health and, in a 2019 study, were estimated to be responsible for 5750 deaths in the UK.

Whilst the LEZ will have the impact of lowering CO2 emissions slightly, this is not its chief aim. Rather, it was a Scottish Government policy created because sites in Scottish cities were failing to meet legal air quality targets.

But Glasgow air quality levels are now within legal limits. Do we now need a ban on cars?

NO2 levels in all Scottish cities are indeed now within those legal limits of 40 µg/m3. As a result, there have been calls, by some, for the scheme will be scrapped. One vehicle repair business which operates within the LEZ and has calculated that the zone will wipe out a third of its business, announced last week that it had instructed lawyers to lodge a legal challenge to the zone.

Patons Accident Repair Centre aims to secure an urgent hearing and then seek an interim order to stop the LEZ from being enforced on June 1.

It’s certainly true that, as a result of a combination of phase one changes in the bus fleet and the general trend towards replacement of older cars with vehicles with lower NO2 emission technologies, already, in Glasgow city centre, NO2 levels have been brought within the legal limit of 40 µg/m3.

But, whilst Glasgow’s NO2 levels are within that limit, they are still well above the World Health Organisation air quality guideline, which is 10 µg/m3, and also the new 20 µg/m3 target currently being proposed by the EU.

Given that 40 µg/m3 is globally regarded as an interim target, it seems likely that a lower target will soon be legislated for. The targets now being reached across Scotland are those we should have met in 2010.

However, with NO2 levels dropping year on year, it’s also possible that they would continue to fall regardless of the presence of the ban, because of the continued and accelerated process of replacement of older vehicles with newer cars.

What will this mean for taxis?

They are likely to be fewer – though not the 1000 cab drivers losing their jobs that was predicted earlier this year. Cab drivers have, since the end of March, been allowed to apply for an exemption that would let them continue to drive current vehicles until June next year, but many have not yet applied.

Stephen Grant, the cab section branch secretary of Unite the Union, said: “There will be fewer cabs when the LEZ starts, and even fewer In 12 months when the exemption period is over. If you look at Birmingham which has a Clean Air Zone, they are now down to 660 cabs from a starting point of 1400 comparable to Glasgow’s current fleet. Glasgow could see a comparable decline.”

Mr Grant said that cab drivers, “struggling financially in a cost-of-living crisis”, had simply needed more time. Many, last autumn, when they were applying for funding to retrofit their vehicles, could not even afford the deposit. “A lot of cab drivers would have liked to move to Euro 6 standard vehicles, but there have been supply chain issues with these.”

Mr Grant also drew attention to the impact this will have on the nighttime economy and accessibility for the disabled.

The Herald:

Is this going to impact on disabled people?

A range of possible exemptions exist for vehicles used for disabled people - from blue-badge holders to one-day exemptions for visitors.

But the requirement to apply seven days in advance for a one-day visit reduces flexibility, and, Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy has observed, the need to register is burdensome. 

She said: “Disabled people constantly face challenges and barriers to their participation in society and the looming introduction of Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone will only add to that. Expecting disabled people to register vehicles creates further additional administrative burden and limits our ability to change plans at short notice."

READ MORE: Scotland's low emission zones: Which cars will be banned?

READ MORE: Glasgow air quality meets targets. That doesn't mean it should be scrapped

What does this mean for city centre business and services?

The Glasgow LEZ, according to a 2021 Integrate Impact Assessment report, has around 4000 enterprises located within its boundary “most of them having fewer than 10 employees”.

Since around 35 percent of Scotland’s vans don’t meet the standard,  those businesses running vans in and out of the city centre are among those most likely to be affected.

The report said: "The sectors that are most dependent on LGVs are construction; wholesale and retail trade; accommodation and food service activities; and transportation and storage.” Around 1,180 businesses fall within these sectors.

Last week, a charity, Homeless Project Scotland, warned it may have to stop feeding homeless people in Glasgow City Centre because it had discovered that its fridge van, whilst registered 2015, was not compliant.

The Herald: Anti-LEZ protest march

Protestors march against low emission zone in Glasgow

How much money is Glasgow likely to make from this?

It's hard to know, as this is the first LEZ with such a severe penalty charging system in the UK and it depends on how drivers react to the steep and escalating fines.

It seems likely, however, that this is more likely to act as a deterrent than the £14 charge that London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone issues. Nevertheless, the income could, if the ban is flouted, add up to many hundreds of thousands in Glasgow City Council’s coffers.

It has been estimated that charges from Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone could bring in £50 million by the end of the year and data from the Mayor of London’s Annual Report and Statement of Accounts revealed last year gross income from ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone) charges was £225.7 million.

However, London’s ULEZ covers an area of 236 square miles, compared to Glasgow’s single square mile.

The Glasgow LEZ site states: “All revenue (above that incurred in running the LEZ scheme itself) can only be used for activities that help reduce air pollution and/or contribute toward achieving our climate change targets.”

Can I appeal? What if you don’t pay?

Glasgow City Council has said that if you believe you have been wrongly charged you can make an appeal.

In March this year, it was revealed that nearly 70,000 fines for entering Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone - which issues an £8 charge for non-compliant vehicles -  had been overturned after drivers appealed or did not pay. 

How will this impact the night-time economy and my ability to get home after a night out?

Businesses in the already-struggling night-time economy have drawn attention to the potential impact of a drop in cab and private hire cars could have on their earnings and ability to function, as well as potential risks to safety of staff and customers who might be forced to walk through the city late at night.

The nightclub owner and music promoter Donald Macleod also recently noted that it would affect the ability of bands, who often run transit vans, to get to their gigs.

Do low emission zones work?

Many studies have shown that such zones do reduce emissions. A recent Clean Cities campaign study found that there was an average reduction in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions of around 20 percent in LEZ areas across Europe.

Research by TomTom showed that London's ULEZ resulted in dramatically reduced pollutant emissions in the capital. Particulate matter emissions were reduced by 40% and NOx (nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide) emissions were reduced by almost 54%.

And in terms of health, a 2022 study of the impact of London’s LEZ and ULEZ by the University of York found that LEZ reduced limiting health problems by 7 percent COPD by 14.5 percent and sick leave by 17 percent and that ULEZ reduced the number of health conditions by 22.5 percent, anxiety by 6.5 percent, and sick leave by 18 precent.