Transport minister Humza Yousaf has confirmed plans to use automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to identify offenders, mostly diesel cars, lorries and buses.
Glasgow is expected to become the country’s first city with a low emission zone (LEZ), forcing owners of vehicles which don’t meet strict standards to pay tolls or fines.
Experts and environmentalists last night welcomed the move, saying it could save thousands of lives from the deadly impact of air pollution.
But critics warned the measure will affect low-paid people who can’t afford to replace their old cars.
Diesels give off harmful nitrogen oxide exhaust gases, which can damage lung tissue and have been linked to 38,000 premature deaths across the world.
In other countries, LEZs usually involve a ban or charges on vehicles with high emissions.
Mr Yousaf said: “We are talking to the four largest cities in Scotland. If we can make public transport more affordable and reliable then people will find they don’t need to take their cars into city centres as much.
“We are definitely not going down the congestion or road pricing route.”
The most polluted streets in Scotland for Nitrogen Dioxide (figures in microgrammes per cubic metre)
Hope Street, Glasgow - 65
St John’s Road, Edinburgh - 49
Wellington Road, Aberdeen - 46
Seagate, Dundee - 46
Main Street, Cambuslang - 45
Union Street Roadside, Aberdeen - 43
Queensferry Road, Edinburgh - 42
Dumbarton Road, Glasgow - 42
Atholl Street, Perth - 40