Scotland will be only the fifth country in the world to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles, according to research published today.
Ministers have set a 2032 target to “phase out the need” for new versions of such cars, even though they do not have the power to ban them.
Analysis by environmental campaigners WWF Scotland said that would put Scotland behind just four other countries – Norway, Austria, India and Ireland.
Norway has the most ambitious timescale for the switch, in 2025, with the other three countries planning to follow suit by 2030. The UK government’s target date is 2040.
Transport minister Humza Yousaf underlined the Scottish Government’s commitment at the SNP conference yesterday: “I want to see Scotland turn the challenge of climate change into an opportunity.
“That’s why I’m determined to drive forward the use of low emission vehicles – like electric cars - to increase active travel [walking and cycling] and why I’ll back our public transport with investment for new, clean, green buses.”
WWF Scotland head of policy Gina Hanrahan said:
“With transport now the single biggest contributor to climate change in Scotland and implicated in thousands of premature deaths from air pollution every year, it’s great to see the Scottish Government at the forefront of the transition to clean transport.
“Technological developments are already driving costs down and the newest models of electric vehicles can drive hundreds of miles on a single charge.
“Getting fossil fuel vehicles off our streets will help create new industries, cut climate change emissions and clean up Scotland’s polluted air.”
However, a motoring group said electric cars would have to become cheaper to have mass appeal.
Philip Gomm, of the RAC Foundation, said: “Electric cars are still a rarity on Scotland’s roads but what the government and councils are doing is setting a direction of travel which consumers will take note of. The two biggest considerations people have when they visit the showroom are the cost of buying a vehicle and the cost of running it.
“While ministers can go some way to influencing the green car market and rolling out charge points, the buck stops with the auto industry which has to make vehicles people want at an affordable price.”
The Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency confirmed it did not have the power to ban the sale of petrol or diesel cars, so efforts focused on “encouraging change”.
A spokesman said: “We recognise many of the key fiscal levers still rest with the UK government and we note their 2040 commitment.
“We will ask them to play their part in meeting our ambitions by making full use of their reserved powers to help shape the market, including through vehicle standards and taxation.
“Our approach is about building the infrastructure to support the use of electric vehicles and promoting their adoption.
“Scotland already has one of the most comprehensive charge point networks in Europe and the Scottish Government also offers interest-free loans to help people make the switch to ultra-low emission vehicles.”