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Transport (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 9th October 2019.

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Photo of Jamie Greene Jamie Greene Conservative

I know—it is a shame. [

Laughter

.] I hope that we will get to a break soon, Presiding Officer. We are making good progress.

When we looked at the proposals in the bill as introduced, we noted that the Government had rightly recognised that there needs to be a grace period. We cannot vote the legislation through and have zones set up the next day, because people would, in effect, be barred from entering the zones. Outside this building, there are people who drive older vehicles and small businesses that have such vehicles. We want to bring them up to the right emission standards to allow those people to drive in our city centres, but we will need some time to do so.

The concept of a grace period is welcome, but throughout stages 2 and 3 we have sought consistently to tinker with the format. When I lodged similar amendments at stage 2, we did not offer the proposals in a table format and the wording was complex to navigate. I hope that the way in which I have presented the proposals in my stage 3 amendments will make it easier to understand them.

In essence, I want to do two things, the first of which is to have three categories of vehicle—buses and coaches; commercial vehicles; and cars, by which I mean everyday household cars—and to give them different grace periods. The second thing is to separate them into the two categories of residents and non-residents. There is a good reason for that. After discussions with many councillors and local authorities, it was clear to me that people who live and operate in a zone and may be captured by it do not have a choice, whereas people who live outside a zone and want to travel into it have more ability to choose to enter it in a certain type of vehicle. If Edinburgh city centre becomes a low-emission zone, someone who lives there and who has the wrong type of vehicle will by default be breaking the law.

We thought that it would be sensible to give people more time, so we propose periods of one, two and three years respectively for those categories in which people are non-residents, and two, three and four years for residents. The range for grace periods would therefore be from one to four years depending on where the vehicle is registered and what type of vehicle it is. That seems to me to be a sensible proposition.

We know that this will be an issue because the indicative proposals from the City of Edinburgh Council show that it has already identified different types of zones that will allow entry to different types of vehicles.

It is sensible for us to do the right thing. We all support the setting up of low-emission zones, but it should be done in a sensible way. A lot of the small businesses that I spoke to are locked into contracts and leases. They cannot get out of those contracts and change their vehicles overnight. The general feedback that I got was that a grace period of three or four years would probably be long enough to allow those businesses to make those spending decisions and change the vehicles that they invest in, be they lease hired, contracted or purchased. That is important feedback.

We do not want to find out that, as a consequence of the legislation, businesses are stuck in vehicle contracts that they cannot get out of in a short period of time, and that they might have onerous charges or penalties to pay as a result.

This is the right thing to do. I am open to hearing members’ feedback on whether they agree with the concept that people who live in a zone should be given a little more time. I will take a view on where we sit after the debate.

I move amendment 145.