Outrage as LEZ Gravy Train likely to exacerbate Aberdeen’s problem of missing 500,000 footfall

As Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh city councils await the arrival of the gravy train of LEZ fines from 1st June, we look at what’s involved and gauge public perception of these schemes. 

The response to the Glasgow scheme which began last year was overwhelmingly negative. In Aberdeen, business sentiment seems to oppose the scheme.  On Saturday, Scottish Business News asked some members of the public who had strayed beyond the demarcation line and into the zone, what they thought. Would the people of Aberdeen take a more positive view?

It’s claimed that the Aberdeen scheme had cross-party backing. But it would seem the public feels that this scheme has been foisted on them by the Scottish Government. There are significant concerns that it will cause further damage to the city centre economy. It’s estimated that visits to the city centre have dropped by a staggering amount since new bus gates were introduced last August. Estimates suggest the number of visits has fallen by more than five hundred thousand. This devastating drop follows on from the damage done by traffic restrictions brought about by COVID and last year’s road work problems. The arrival of more barriers to entry has sparked fury amongst members of the public.  

Schoolhill, Aberdeen

We start by looking at the Scheme itself:

What is the LEZ Scheme?

A Low Emission Zone (LEZ) is an area where government restricts access for vehicles likely to cause the most pollution. Ostensibly, it is claimed that the aim is to improve air quality. But critics have pointed to the eye-watering revenues generated by Glasgow’s scheme which was introduced last year. In the first four months, it was claimed Glasgow had received almost half a million pounds in fine income and this apparently exceeded one million pounds by April 2023.

When will LEZs be introduced?

LEZ’s were introduced across Scotland in AberdeenDundeeEdinburgh and Glasgow on 31 May 2022. But local grace periods have been in place. Enforcement began in Glasgow on 1st June 2023 (and was greeted with an outcry of anger). The timetable for Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, is as follows: 

  • Dundee 30 May 2024
  • Aberdeen 1 June 2024
  • Edinburgh 1 June 2024.

The geographic extent, scope, and timescales for implementation of Scotland’s LEZs has been determined by each local authority. 

What are the levels of fine?

The levels of fine are set by the Scottish Government, and they are formidable.  They start at £60 and increase for repeat offences if committed within 90 days of any previous offence. The maximum fine occurs after four offences for light vehicles and stands at £480. For mini-buses, buses and HGV’s the maximum fine is reached after five offences and at an eyewatering £960. 

Will my Vehicle be subject to fines?

You can check if your vehicle will be fined at this link:


What happens to the money?

Councils say profit earned from the fines will be reinvested to meet Scotland’s net-zero and clean air targets. Undoubtedly, there will be a great deal of public interest in what happens to this money. 

Speaking about the Glasgow scheme, Scottish Conservative shadow transport minister Graham Simpson MSP said to STV “The scheme was shambolically rolled out by the SNP-led council and they have failed to learn any lessons over the past 12 months.” 

“We know that nearly 40% the council’s own vehicles are still not compliant, yet motorists have been hit to the tune of over £1m in fines.”

“It is crucial that other cities who are about to introduce their own low emission zones do not repeat Glasgow’s mistakes while SNP-led Glasgow must be fully upfront about what this money they have raked in is being spent on.”

But what did the members of the Aberdeen public have to say on the subject:

Abbie Ross, Ellon

“It makes about as much sense as shutting pavements and redirecting traffic during COVID. Or putting up bus gates and not sign-posting them well enough so you can fine people who are unfamiliar with the arrangements. Of course, It will make sense to those making money out of it. I’m ok. I drive an electric car these days. It shows that Governments and Councils know nothing about business or the economy for that matter. The idea is to make it easy for people to come into town and spend money, to stimulate trade not to shut it down. My daughter works in a shop in the city centre, and they are already struggling. What about her job? These days we have politicians who care more about foreign affairs and virtue signalling than about the communities they are supposed to serve.” 

Cameron Sim – Aberdeen

“It’s an absolute disgrace. It’ll be another nail in the coffin of the city centre. We now have ghost streets with cobwebs blowing through them where before we had a busy town centre. Small retail businesses have serious problems to deal with. They need help. We have a Scottish Government behind this who doesn’t care about business, doesn’t get business, doesn’t help business, and certainly doesn’t care about Aberdeen.”

Bill Alexander, Accountant – Aberdeen

“I’ve got to the point I am anti green. This will be the final nail in the city centre coffin.”

Mark C – Oil Worker – Turriff

“This is nothing more than ‘greenwashing’ and will do nothing for the environment. It’s another tax as if the hard working people of Aberdeenshire don’t pay enough tax already. The pressure this will put on the elderly is scandalous. They will have to fork out for a replacement car they don’t want. My car isn’t compliant so I will avoid Aberdeen as much as possible. I wish the Scottish Government and local councils would act the way people want and not how they believe they should. Therein lies the problem It’s them and us!”

Nicola R – City Centre Resident

“I’m concerned about the impact on residential areas around the LEZ. Roads in these areas will be busier and more congested, resulting in increased travelling time and greater congestion, that’s hardly conducive to reduced emissions.” 

“It seems to be yet another money-making scheme from Scottish Government and the City Council. They have effectively destroyed Union Street.”

Colin Douglas – Banchory

It’s ridiculous! Absolutely ridiculous. Don’t tell Stephen Flynn, but right in the middle of the LEZ is a thing called a harbour, where they burn Marine Gas Oil and Light Fuel Oil. Are they going to shut them down as well? Or is that to be achieved just by failing to support our oil industry? It’s yet another crackpot scheme.”

Keith G – IT Manager

“To be honest, I am neither up nor down about it. I suspect it won’t make much difference either way. It’s yet more legislation and more public money and I’m not sure it would get the public’s vote.”

Susan Davidson, Hilton, Business Owner

“I think it’s meant to be a positive thing. But I worry about the impact on trades people who can’t afford new vans. What are they supposed to do? Just give up? If the job they have to do is in the town centre it will be a nightmare for them. They can give up, or increase their costs and who does that help. Also it’s already a nightmare trying to get into the centre of Aberdeen, shoppers are suffering and businesses are really suffering. I can’t see this making it any better.”

Claire Wilson – Student

“I think it’s a smart idea. We need to do more to hit our net-zero targets. I’d like to see them go further.”

Peter Downie – Retired

“I like the quieter city centre. It’s more civilised. I think the council are right to drive cars out of the city, it makes for a better environment. People can’t blame the council for everything, things like Amazon and home food delivery have changed high streets everywhere. The sooner they get this new idea off the ground to turn Union Street into residential properties the better – it’s an eyesore anyway.”

Other Opinions

Other opinions were quite heated and reflected the general mood captured above. This reflects the views found in other parts of the country. Speaking to the BBC about the Glasgow scheme, Donald MacLeod, who operates a business in the city centre said, it was “absolutely atrocious the way people in Glasgow were being treated.

“The streets of Glasgow have been emptied, not of cars but of people,” he said, “Mid-week the town is a ghost town.”

A council spokeswoman said: “Glasgow’s LEZ is an essential measure to protect public health by reducing stubbornly high levels of harmful air pollution in our city centre.”

At the heart of these schemes is the commendable drive for environmental improvements. But like many initiatives taken by government in recent times the view of the politicians and the view of the people seem to be at odds. One thing for sure is that these schemes will generate significant income for cash-strapped councils. 

You can find out more from these websites:

Aberdeen City Council

Dundee City Council

Edinburgh City Council

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