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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 Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

Grace periods are critical to the operation of low emissions, because they will give all road users time to prepare for the introduction of a low-emission zone.

Amendments 145 to 148 seek to place very prescriptive grace periods into the bill. I draw attention to two substantive issues. Amendment 148 does not take account of the full list of vehicle types that are recognised by the Vehicle Certification Agency, which is not acceptable in enforcement terms. The amendments also seek to substantially reduce the maximum grace periods for buses and other commercial vehicles in a way that offers no flexibility for local authorities to set grace periods as they see fit.

Amendment 57 seeks to remove the minimum period for grace periods for non-residents. Removing the minimum would mean that low-emission zones could, in theory, start immediately, which would give those affected no time to adapt to the changes. The grace periods that are currently set out in the bill form the most appropriate and balanced approach, where we can achieve it in the legislation. They are based on extensive engagement with stakeholders, including local authorities.

Amendment 59 would impose a requirement to seek the approval of Scottish ministers around grace periods, which is not necessary because ministers must already approve a low-emission zone scheme under section 5 of the bill.

I have some sympathy with the intent of amendment 58, which seeks to remove minimum grace periods for residents. Local authorities will still have flexibility to set those periods up to two years beyond the grace period that is set for non-residents, so I can support that amendment.

Amendments 149 and 150, which were lodged by Jamie Greene, are concerned with removing section 11 in its entirety. That would, in effect, result in the removal from the bill of substantive necessary grace period provisions, covering situations including those in which two or more local authorities wished to act jointly when making or amending a low-emission zone, or in which newly adopted roads were included in an existing low-emission zone.

Therefore, although I can support amendment 58, I ask Jamie Greene and Colin Smyth not to press their other amendments in the group. If the amendments are pressed, I urge members to reject them.