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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 will comment on members’ feedback on the Scottish Conservative amendments.

I thank Colin Smyth, of Scottish Labour, and Mike Rumbles, of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, for saying that their parties will support amendment 135, which I appreciate. As they said, it is important that the bill says up front what the purpose of a low-emission zone is.

In his response, the cabinet secretary said that amendment 135’s focus is too narrow. I argue that it is purposely narrow because, by default, the point of such a zone is surely to restrict the entry of vehicles that do not meet emissions criteria. The bill’s intention is to lower emissions in and around the zone in which it operates. By making that clear and defining what the purpose of such zones is, we are more likely to achieve the buy-in of the general public to support them and to be positive about them, as many members are. Other parts of the low-emissions zone provisions might refer to other pieces of legislation, so that, if we were to dig deep enough, that might enable us to find out what they are about.

I have no problem with putting the purpose of low-emission zones on the face of the bill—the effect would be to say, in very simple terms and with no ambiguity, what the purpose of LEZs is.

I appeal to the Scottish Greens to work with Scottish Conservatives on that, given the broad range of support by others—not just political support, but support from organisations with which we have been working for a number of months to try to get something in the bill. Members now have a chance to do that, so I appeal to them to do so.

I sympathise with the cabinet secretary’s comments on national standards. It would be very confusing for drivers if different zones were to operate to different technical standards. If a person were to drive from Aberdeen to Dundee and on to Edinburgh in the same vehicle and could enter one LEZ but not another, that would create confusion.

I have other amendments coming up on signage, which would help to inform the public. They will fall nicely together as a package with the amendments that we are debating now. It is a simple proposition: my amendments would enable motorists to understand exactly what they are getting. Unfortunately, in that case, we should not support Colin Smyth’s amendments.

However, it is worth noting that cites—including Edinburgh, which might be the first to introduce an LEZ—are already looking at how they could use the legislation, if it passes as it is currently drafted, to operate different geographical zones, which would allow some vehicles to enter one zone but not another. The legislation has flexibility built in through which to do that; I do not think that differing technical standards is the way to achieve that.

I appeal to members for their support for amendments 135 and 137. I press amendment 135.