A simple guide to Scotland’s Low Emission Zones

A collage of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dunde.
A further three cities will have launched their LEZ schemes by the start of June, joining Glasgow which has had an LEZ for a year [Getty Images]

Three more Scottish cities will launch their city centre Low Emission Zones (LEZ) this week.

Dundee's scheme opened on Thursday, joining Glasgow whose zone has already been operating for a year.

Edinburgh and Aberdeen's zones will go live from Saturday - exactly one year after Glasgow.

The schemes aim to cut emissions and pollution in the city centre by stopping some vehicles from entering.

All three zones officially started two years ago, but a "grace period" was enacted to give people time to prepare for full enforcement in 2024.

What is a Low Emission Zone (LEZ)?

A Low Emission Zone, or LEZ, is an area only accessible to vehicles that meet minimum emission standards.

This means not all vehicles are affected by the zone and the majority of drivers can still access the city centre.

However, any vehicles that breach the emission standards will be issued a fine for entering the zone.

There are some exemptions regardless of emission standards, including: blue badge holders, motorbikes, mopeds and emergency vehicles.

The Scottish government says the aim of the LEZ is to improve air quality in city centres.

Councils say profit earned from the fines will be reinvested to meet Scotland's net-zero and clean air targets.

Can I drive in the LEZ?

If your vehicle meets the minimum emission standards, you can enter the zone.

Low emission zone restrictions only affect the most polluting vehicles.

This typically means the zone will have an impact on diesel vehicles registered before September 2015 and petrol vehicles registered before 2006.

Motorists can use the "LEZ vehicle checker" to see if their vehicle complies on the LEZ Scotland website.

All four Scottish LEZs follow the same emission standards set by the Scottish government.

How does an LEZ work?

If a driver enters a Scottish Low Emission Zone with a non-compliant vehicle, they will be issued an initial fine of £60.

But, like a parking ticket, the fine reduces by 50% if it is paid within the first 14 days.

If a vehicle re-enters the LEZ within 90 days of its last breach, the penalty charge will double.

Fines will continue to double until reaching a maximum of £480 for cars and light goods vehicles and £960 for buses and HGVs.

LEZ charges

If a non-compliant driver does not enter the LEZ for 90 days after their last breach, any future fines return to £60.

However, unlike a parking ticket, all of Scotland’s LEZs will be enforced 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from their launch.

Councils use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras to check if vehicles are compliant.

If motorists think they have been fined incorrectly, they can appeal to the relevant council within 28 days of receiving a penalty charge notice.

Unlike London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), you cannot pay to enter any of Scotland's LEZs with a non-compliant vehicle.

The London system includes a £12.50 daily charge for driving in the Ultra Low Emission Zone if a vehicle doesn't meet emission standards.

In the Scottish system, no prohibited vehicle can enter the LEZ without receiving a fine.

Glasgow LEZ map

Glasgow's Low Emission Zone, which launched in June 2023, is surrounded by the M8 along its west and northern boundary, and the River Clyde on the south boundary.

The zones east boundary runs past Saltmarket and along High Street.

Glasgow LEZ map

Edinburgh LEZ map

Edinburgh's Low Emission Zone covers the entirety of Princes Street and encompasses landmarks such as Edinburgh Waverley Station, Edinburgh Castle and St James Quarter.

The zone's northern boundary stops at Queen Street and extends east to just past the Scottish Parliament and Holyrood House.

The area encompasses all of the Old Town and stops at the A700 in the south.

The west boundary of the LEZ travels along the A700, B700 and Morrison Street.

Edinburgh LEZ map

Dundee LEZ map

The Dundee Low Emission Zone includes an area within the A991 Inner Ring Road, excluding three car parks - Bell Street, West Marketgait and Wellgate Shopping Centre.

It encompasses landmarks like the McManus Galleries, Abertay University and the Overgate Centre.

The ring road itself is not within the LEZ, this means the Tay Road Bridge is fully accessible to all vehicles.

Dundee LEZ map

Aberdeen LEZ map

Aberdeen’s Low Emission Zone covers an area from the east end of Union Street and stops north at Skene Street.

It extends in front of Bon Accord Shopping Centre and stops east at West North Street.

The zone covers the north and west side of Aberdeen train station, stopping south at Willowbank Road.

The entirety of Union Street is included in the zone.

Aberdeen LEZ map

What happens if you don't pay an LEZ fine?

Like a parking ticket, a Low Emission Zone fixed penalty notice (or fine) reduces by 50% if it is paid within the first 14 days.

If your fine is not paid within 14 days, your fine will increase to its full rate.

A recent controversy saw that Glasgow's LEZ fines from June to October were legally unenforceable due to a procedural error.

This has been fixed since the end of October, so now all LEZ fines are legally enforceable and must be paid, according to the council.

How do appeals work?

Motorists who are fined must first appeal against their penalty to the respective council.

If the council denies the appeal, they can take their case to the Transport Appeal Tribunal for Scotland.

If the transport tribunal denies the appeal, it can be appealed once more to the Scotland first-tier tribunal, and again to the Upper-tier tribunal.

Additional LEZ information