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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

Amendment 135 would set the purpose of a low-emission zone as the reduction of

“transport-related emissions within and in the vicinity of the zone.”

This topic was raised throughout stages 1 and 2. However, the bill already provides a clear mandatory requirement, which is set out in section 9(4): that low-emission zones must help to meet the air quality objectives that are prescribed by the Environment Act 1995. In addition, amendment 54 will add a further mandatory objective for low-emission zones of contributing towards meeting the climate change targets that have been set this year in the Parliament. We will outline the purposes of a low-emission zone and how to set objectives in the forthcoming low-emission zone guidance.

Amendment 135 is therefore not needed. It is unduly narrow in its stated purpose.

Amendment 137 would require the Scottish ministers to prepare and lay a report in the Scottish Parliament no later than five years after the bill has received royal assent outlining any new or existing pollutants that should be considered when setting the emission standards for low-emission zones. Again, that is unnecessarily complex, as these matters are already dealt with by the existing environmental legislation as well as by the bill as it stands.

Amendment 49 would introduce a requirement on local authorities to implement a low-emission zone in any area that does not meet the air pollution limit values as stated in the Air Quality (Scotland) Regulations 2000. The Scottish Government is committed to introducing low-emission zones in other air quality management areas by 2023 where the national low-emission framework appraisals support that. Those appraisals will be conducted this year for all air quality management areas other than in the four main cities, where low-emission zones are already being prepared. As such, we are already taking steps to ensure that low-emission zones are implemented in air quality management areas where the scientific evidence supports such action.

With the First Minister declaring a climate emergency, amendment 54 brings the crucial issues of climate change and air quality together. Low-emission zones will be required to contribute towards meeting the emissions reduction targets that are set out in part 1 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. Those objectives dovetail with the existing mandatory objective of contributing to an improvement in air quality, as prescribed in section 87(1) of the 1995 act. I therefore encourage local authorities to adopt a pragmatic but ambitious approach to the new climate change objective.

Amendment 55 would introduce a power for local authorities to alter their emission standard for their local low-emission zones, such that they could make emission standards more stringent than the forthcoming national standards contained in regulations. The amendment is unhelpful, as it has the clear potential to cause confusion for people driving between zones. It is unnecessary, as the regulation-making power to set the emission standards as a national standard already allows for the possibility of more stringent standards being set over time.

I therefore ask members to support amendment 54, and I ask Jamie Greene and Colin Smyth not to press amendments 135, 137, 49 and 55. If they are pressed, I urge members to reject them.