Stuart Waiton: Driving cars out of our cities makes no sense

THERE has always been a moralistic dimension to environmental policies but at least some of them made some sense. However, the idea of Low Emission Zones (LEZ) for cities like Dundee has to be the stupidest to date.

The plan will be enforced in 2024 in Dundee, having been rolled out in Glasgow a year earlier. Each scheme will pick part of a city to be a LEZ and any person driving an old or unacceptable vehicle here will be fined £60 every time they are caught by the vehicle number plate cameras that will fill the cities.

These fines will be capped at £480 before being reset when the fines will start again and it is estimated that a fifth of the 2.5 million cars in Scotland will essentially be forced out of the cities. A cab driver told me that the cost of buying a new car meant he would probably retire when this happens.

Looking at the proposal for this scheme by Dundee City Council we find that the LEZ is needed to: “Protect public health through improving air quality and achieving air quality compliance”.

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But this idea of a problem of car pollution destroying air quality makes no sense.

In case you’re not familiar with Dundee, let me explain it this way. I was in a traffic jam for more than three minutes last week and I was raging. I was raging because I’m so unused to being in any traffic jams in Dundee because they essentially don’t happen.

The relatively small number of people who live and work and travel to and from Dundee means that it is one of the most pleasant cities to drive around. It sits on a magnificent estuary that means there is a constant breeze or wind. The town centre itself is small and was already under used by drivers and pedestrians alike, even before the pandemic.

All of this means that when it comes to there being some kind of problem with the air quality and pollution from cars, of all the cities on the planet Dundee must be at the bottom of this list. A low emission zone for Dundee, and I suspect the other targeted cities of Scotland, simply makes no sense in terms of air pollution.

The other reasons given for the LEZ is the desire to: “Develop an environment that helps promote more active and sustainable travel choices”.

Then there’s the desire to: “Contribute to the ongoing transformational change in Dundee and help promote the city as an inclusive and desirable place to live, invest, visit and learn”.

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Clearly, once again, our betters – who now appear to rule over us rather than be ruled by us – want to “change the culture” or to have “transformational change” and create “inclusive” cities.

This inclusion doesn’t appear to take into account the fact that in polls only a third of the public support this development.

To further force drivers to leave their cars at home we also have the push to charge employers, and hence employees, for having car parks. Some employers are already planning to get rid of their car parks and replace them with some kind of green civic space.

For Dundee at least, the likely outcome of all of this is to simply further worsen a ghost town where poorer people are pushed out of the centre of town and where residential areas fill up with cars parked by workers who can’t afford the car park tax.

The public don’t want these zones. They make no sense in terms of air pollution. They are being developed because there is a push by our environmental aristocracy to teach us how to live “sustainably”.

But once again the idea of sustainability turns out to be little more than a moralising concept resulting in a poorer, more miserable and regulated life.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.

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