Ministers have announced over £1 million in funding for green buses in Glasgow as Scotland’s first ever Low Emission Zone (LEZ) comes into force in the city.
Bosses at First Glasgow and Glasgow Airport are to receive £1.14 million as part of the latest round of grants from the Scottish Green Bus Fund - which has already paid out more than £16 million in cash to operators, allowing them to purchase over 360 more environmentally friendly vehicles.
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson also said the Scottish Government had also provided more than £10 million in 2018 to help bus firms with costs such as retrofitting green technology to their existing fleets.
Mr Matheson said: “I’m proud that we continue to spend nearly a quarter of a billion pounds a year in grants to support our bus network, retrofit older buses and help operators purchase new low emission vehicles.
“We are committed to continuing to support our vital bus sector which plays a key role in keeping Scotland moving while also continuing to be an important part of the solution to the issue of air quality.”
The cash was announced as the first phase of Glasgow’s LEZ was introduced - meaning a fifth of all buses which pass through the city centre must comply with European emissions standards.
Phase two, which applies to all vehicles entering the area, will be implemented in four years time in December 2022.
As a result environmental campaigners have claimed the LEZ “won’t achieve any significant change for air quality” for several years.
Air pollution campaigner Gavin Thomson said: “Unfortunately, the weak terms of this low-emission zone - only applying to one in five buses - won’t achieve any significant change for air quality.
“This ‘no ambition zone’ means fumes from transport in the centre of Glasgow will carry on poisoning people’s lungs for many more years.
“Around 18 per cent of buses in Glasgow already met the emission standards before the zone was decided, so there will be very little change in the fleet.”
LEZs are also being brought in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee over the next two years, with Mr Matheson saying: “The Scottish Government committed to introducing Low Emission Zones into Scotland’s four biggest cities between 2018 and 2020.
“Glasgow is the first city to implement a zone, working with the bus industry to respond to the particular air quality challenges within Glasgow city centre.
“To help support this transition, we have provided over £10m pounds in 2018 to assist with local authority delivery and the costs associated with bus retrofit technology, and this is addition to eight years of the Scottish Green Bus Fund which has been very successful in evolving and encouraging a greener fleet.”
A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said the authority was adopting a “pragmatic and phased approach” to the introduction of the LEZ, which would “ensure a manageable, yet robust timetable for implementation that looks at the city’s overall needs to ensure it won’t have a detrimental impact on people’s lives, businesses and the vitality of the city centre”.
She added: “Other cities across Europe adopted similar lead in times for their low-emission zones, so it’s seen as a reasonable amount of time to get the message out to businesses and residents so they are informed and can prepare.
“Glasgow’s LEZ is a progressive policy that will deliver cleaner air for the people of Glasgow.”