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Parliamentary debates and questions

Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee 24 October 2018

The agenda for the day:

Decision on Taking Business in Private, Transport (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1, Subordinate Legislation.

Decision on Taking Business in Private
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The Convener (Edward Mountain)

Good morning and welcome to the public part of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s 26th meeting in 2018. I ask everyone to make sure that their mobile phones are on silent. Apologies have been received from Stewart Stevenson, who is attending another committee. John Finnie will have to leave the meeting part way through.

Agenda item 2 is a decision on taking business in private. The committee is asked to consider taking three items in private: item 5 today, which is a draft letter on pre-budget scrutiny; future consideration of our approach to the Restricted Roads (Scotland) Bill; and future consideration of our approach to the anticipated South of Scotland enterprise agency bill. Is that agreed?

Members indicated agreement.

Transport (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1
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The Convener

Item 3 is the Transport (Scotland) Bill. Are there any members who want to declare any interests in relation to transport? No? Perfect.

This is our fourth evidence session on the Transport (Scotland) Bill, and today we are focusing on low-emission zones. This session will also touch on the parking prohibition provisions in the bill. I welcome Martin Reid, policy director at the Road Haulage Association; Gavin Thomson, air pollution campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, representing Scottish Environment LINK, Tony Kenmuir, treasurer and member of the executive committee of the Scottish Taxi Association; and Neil Greig, policy and research director of IAM RoadSmart.

There is a series of questions. Those of you who have given evidence before will know that, if you want to answer a question, you need to catch my eye so that I can bring you in. You do not need to touch the buttons in front of you. The gentleman on your left will automatically activate the microphone in front of you. If you see me waving my pen like this, that probably means that I am trying to encourage you to wind up what you are saying—it saves me having to cut you off.

Welcome to the committee. The first question this morning is from John Finnie.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Good morning, panel. There are a number of perhaps slightly more technical questions to come, so I will kick off by rolling a couple of general ones together. What is your position on the principle of establishing low-emission zones in Scotland? What impact, if any, will they have on reducing air pollution at recognised hot spots?

Gavin Thomson (Scottish Environment LINK)

Good morning, everyone. Thank you for inviting me to speak. I am the air pollution campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, and we think that the Transport (Scotland) Bill could offer a great opportunity to reduce air pollution, not just through low-emission zones but through the rest of the bill. Low-emission zones are used across Europe as a great way of reducing air pollution, which primarily comes from traffic. We know the health evidence on air pollution; there are fresh stories every week that are alarming. We know that air pollution shortens lives. It damages hearts and lungs. In the most recent story we learned that it impairs cognitive ability. It increases the risk of dementia. It can reach unborn babies through the placenta. It is clear that we need to take action. Low-emission zones are one tool to improve air quality.

The provisions in the bill certainly need to be improved to ensure that we protect people’s health, but that is possible if certain changes are made. A helpful lens to use as we analyse the provisions in the bill and discuss them this morning is that, fundamentally, we are looking at a public health policy. As you said, it involves a lot of detailed traffic regulation, but what we are looking at is something that should protect people’s health effectively when it is implemented.

Tony Kenmuir (Scottish Taxi Association)

I think that we are all agreed that we want our descendants to breathe cleaner air. I should not think that anybody debates that. We are also moving towards cleaner vehicles and Euro 6 standards. I will use a quick analogy to explain what strikes me about the bill. If I am the driver of a motorcar with dual climate control in the front and I want to keep cool, so I set my temperature at 15°, but my passenger on the other side of the gearstick wants to be warm and sets their temperature at 25°, neither of us is going to achieve what we want.

The slight concern that I have about the low-emission zone approach is that, if we improve the standard of our vehicles and our fleet across the board, that is perfectly logical and reasonable, but why would we do it only in certain streets or in a certain area? That is the bit that I struggle with. Maybe every step is one step in the right direction, but the concept of a low-emission zone controlling the emissions only in certain streets does not seem particularly logical as a principle. Even according to your own report, the findings from low-emission zones in London and across Europe are, frankly, that the lowering of emissions does not amount to much.

The Convener

Martin Reid, do you want to come in on low-emission zones and the road haulage industry?

Martin Reid (Road Haulage Association)

Yes. Thank you very much for the opportunity this morning. Low-emission zones are clearly the way forward. This is the direction of travel that we are all going in. For our industry, I have not heard of any specific objection to the concept or the principle of a low-emission zone. Our concern is the timeframes that are being mentioned and the ability of our industry and the technology that surrounds it to accommodate these changes at this pace. As Tony Kenmuir rightly says, everybody has the right to clean air and the road haulage industry feels no differently about that.

10:00  

The Convener

Neil Greig, as everyone else has had a chance, it would be right for you to come in as well.

Neil Greig (IAM RoadSmart)

I have just a quick point. Most of what I will be saying today is based on a survey that we did of 1,400 of our members. We have 92,000 members. One of the most striking findings was that only 3 per cent had any confidence that anything that any Government did would solve the problem quickly. A lot of the questions that we asked people were fairly evenly split, with a third in favour, a third against, and a third saying that they do not know. It is that big “do not know”. There is a lack of consumer information out there to allow people to make a judgment now, and I think that that is why people are sometimes slightly worried about this. They just do not know what it actually means yet. From our point of view, the key issue is getting consumer information out there and helping people understand what these policies mean to them.

John Finnie

The important thing about taking evidence is to shape this. The committee’s job is to scrutinise. From my point of view, it is good that there is consensus at least that there is a wish to see low-emission zones. Mr Thomson, do you think that there is a lack of ambition?

Gavin Thomson

Yes, there is a lack of ambition; specifically, there is a lack of objectives of low-emission zones. The bill does not set out what the low-emission zones would be trying to achieve, which is a concern, particularly when we look at the delegation of powers between ministers and local authorities. That lack of objectives could cause problems. An excessively slow implementation period and long grace periods mean that, under the current version of the bill, low-emission zones would not be in place until perhaps 2026. For an issue that we can all agree is essential, needs to be acted on and is imperative for human health, that seems unnecessarily slow and something we could perhaps look at in the emission restriction standards.

To make a broader point, we know that most of our air pollution comes from traffic. Essentially, we need to reduce the air pollution that we receive from private car travel. That is about modal shift and a change in the types of cars. The bill does not fill me with confidence that it will be successful in reducing our air pollution.

Martin Reid

Our situation is slightly different from that. We are not going to argue about the health benefits or disbenefits. We are not experts in that area and we will happily defer to those who are. Our position is one of current reality. We have no current retrofit option for trucks to come up to Euro 6 standard. Buses have it. I will add a caveat, which is that late last night, while I was preparing and not sleeping as I should have been, I read an article about a successful trial by a large waste management company using a clean vehicle retrofit accreditation scheme approved retrofit option. It may be that we are now on the cusp of something good happening in that area. We will cross our fingers and hope that that is the case.

Up to this point, we have had no retrofit option, so the option for our industry is to remove or get rid of the truck that we currently have and buy a Euro 6 engine truck. That is problematic, particularly for small and medium enterprises. A Euro 6 truck could cost anything between £80,000 and £120,000. The reality again is that the popularity of Euro 6 trucks, mainly through legislation and so on, has created a distortion of the second-hand value of Euro 5 trucks, so the barrier for entry for those who are wishing to adopt this newer technology has become greater.

For our industry, 2023 does not seem a long way away. I totally understand the point that Gavin Thomson is making, but the reality for our industry is that, should we be required or forced to jump early, technology is not backing us to do that and neither are the economics just yet. The percentage of Euro 6 vehicles in the United Kingdom fleet is growing every year. I will give a couple of statistics: in 2017, 36 per cent of the total UK fleet was Euro 6; in 2019, it is expected to be 50 per cent; in 2021, it will be 64 per cent; and, by the time the low-emission zone is due to start in Glasgow in 2023, all the indications are that 78 per cent of the UK fleet will be Euro 6.

The Convener

Could you clarify, so that I understand those percentages? Roughly how many trucks will be on the road in 2023 that will not meet the standard?

Martin Reid

At the minute, there are 493,600 heavy goods vehicles registered in the UK. The number that you are looking for is 78 per cent of that figure; it is a substantial amount but it still leaves a substantial number that will not be ready by 2023. The average life of a truck is between 10 and 12 years. We have to remember that Euro 6 came in in 2013, I think. Before that, previous Governments had recommended that hauliers bought Euro 5. Hauliers did that in good faith and now they are being required to change it earlier than their planned schedule. It is just to flag up that there is an economic imperative surrounding this that affects the industry.

Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

I have a brief supplementary. Mr Kenmuir, I found your comments quite intriguing. We often talk about the de facto position that everyone accepts that there should be LEZs and it is just an argument about how, what, where and how much. You have brought a very different perspective to the committee for the first time, which is that, if we only target specific areas, we are not addressing the universal problem. You could read that in two ways. Are you suggesting that there should be no zone anywhere or that there should be a universal zone? By that I mean that there should be complete compliance or a zone should not exist at all. It is not clear from what you said which one you prefer.

Tony Kenmuir

When I was reading part 1 of the bill, I became interested when it started talking about retrofitting and whether that should be allowable. I found myself beginning to wonder why that would be an issue for you. Why do you need to think about it? The short answer to your question is that it should be universal. I am here to talk about the taxi fleet. There are 1,316 taxis in Edinburgh and just over 1,400 in Glasgow. If they are all Euro 6 or electric, what does it matter what street they are moving up and down? If they have all met that standard, whether or not there is a low-emission zone becomes moot.

If you design a little zone with a boundary around it, you are creating a whole world of complication. What happens when somebody in Glasgow gets a taxi to bring them to Waverley station in Edinburgh? Are they allowed in or are they not? The management of the environment and emissions is by definition a global issue and a national issue. It is a macro issue. To try to manage the climate within a few streets just seems to me completely illogical. It is possibly not a popular point of view, but it just seems to add unnecessary complication.

Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

I want to follow up on that. We all know that London black cabs are long-lived vehicles that last almost for ever, but some of the older ones have an old-fashioned type of engine. You said that we could get them all to Euro 6 level. Is that likely to happen any time soon with taxis? I see taxis here that are 10 years old and have very old types of diesel engine. I would have thought that they are fairly polluting vehicles.

Tony Kenmuir

You said something really interesting when you mentioned the age of vehicles. Research in the German automotive industry shows that, with the emissions that are created by building car batteries, it takes 10 years to recoup the fuel savings that will be made by converting engines.

An age limit could be put on vehicles. I want to get across a specific issue, and I am glad that I have the opportunity to do so. We want to manage the emissions—not necessarily the age—of the vehicles, and it is much more economically sound practice to keep a well-maintained, safe vehicle that passes emission standards running than to scrap it and build another one to replace it. I hope that Gavin Thomson agrees with that.

The City of Edinburgh Council in particular has introduced very aggressive targets. Anything older than a Euro 5 taxi in Edinburgh has to go this year. There are 1,316 taxis in Edinburgh, and I am not sure that the City of Edinburgh Council licensing committee realised that scrapping everything older than Euro 5 taxis involves nearly 700 vehicles. Half of the fleet has to go in one year.

Peter Chapman

Will that happen by replacing the cars or the engines?

Tony Kenmuir

The City of Edinburgh Council has not given us the option of retrofitting. To extend the life expectancy of the vehicle, we can convert it to a liquefied petroleum gas vehicle. That costs about £12,000, and we will get an extra four years’ life expectancy tacked on to the age of the vehicle, which is capped at 10 years.

All the Euro 5 taxis have to go. We have until March 2023 for them to go. Therefore, the entire taxi fleet will be Euro 6 taxis by 2023.

The Convener

So that I understand, is retrofitting a vehicle to take it to the Euro 6 level an expensive option?

Tony Kenmuir

No—not relatively speaking. That is because the engine does not need to be replaced. The change from Euro 5 to Euro 6 involves just ancillaries, so the cost is a few grand. That is very affordable relative to the £45,000 cost of replacing the vehicle.

John Finnie

The discussion has been quite wide ranging. Can you expand on a point that Mr Kenmuir made on a subject that was mentioned in the Friends of the Earth Scotland evidence? It is about the category of special roads and the anomalous situation of having a zone in which, funnily enough, the roads that are the responsibility of the Scottish Government rather than local authorities are exempt. This is the issue of motorways and trunk roads. Will the panel comment on that?

Gavin Thomson

We said in our submission that, under the current provisions of the bill, motorways would be exempt from any low-emission zone scheme. At first glance, it might seem to make sense that motorways should be treated differently from inner-city roads but, in order to try to think about the long term and the ambition of low-emission zone schemes, we said in our submission that that should not be taken off the table.

I will respond to Tony Kenmuir’s comments. A very small low-emission zone scheme would not be much use. We would want a substantial geographical area to be covered by the zones in cities. The proximity of people, particularly vulnerable groups such as children and elderly people, to traffic pollution at the source—if a person is at the kerbside, they are exposed to high levels of pollution—means that we need to think about how we protect high-density urban areas in which there are lots of traffic and people. I think that we can all agree that having one or two streets covered by a low-emission zone scheme would probably not be effective or worth while. It would be great to see the first cities that are earmarked for low-emission zone schemes thinking about how the approach can apply city wide. We said in our submission that, in the fullness of time, motorways might need to be considered.

I return to the Euro standards for HGVs and taxis, which we have spoken about briefly. In our submission, we focused on thinking about how the approach affects private cars, which are the majority of vehicles on our roads. The standards in the policy memorandum are Euro 4 for petrol vehicles, which would be for any car that was bought new from 2004 onwards, and Euro 6 for diesel vehicles—those standards came into force in 2014. The current provision is that the low-emission zone schemes would be brought in in 2024 to 2026, so we could be talking about a private car that is up to 22 years old if it is a petrol car or 12 years old if it is a diesel one. We would expect to see those changes in fleet turnover anyway. The cars would not be around on the roads for that long. In the submission, we asked what the current provision does that the second-hand car market would not do naturally anyway. If we agree that low-emission zones are needed, surely we agree that they should be effective.

10:15  

The Convener

The next question from Richard Lyle feeds in naturally to the discussion.

Richard Lyle (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

Tony Kenmuir and Martin Reid will love this question. The bill proposes that certain classes of vehicle be banned from entering a low-emission zone. Will that disadvantage users who will not be able to drive into a zone with an old taxi or deliver goods into the zone because the vehicle cannot be retrofitted? A penalty would be imposed for non-compliance. Many other LEZs—in London, for example—require a charge to be paid if entry criteria are not met. What option would you prefer, and why?

Martin Reid

Your points are well made. Should we go down that route, a number of vehicles would not be allowed into those areas, which would undoubtedly have an impact on service. That would also impact on the number of small businesses that would be able to access those areas.

Deliveries must happen. During the period of bad weather at the end of February, we saw that delays for a couple of days meant empty shelves and that deliveries which could not get through were missed.

Again, we urge a sensible approach. Low-emission zones that allow Euro 5 and Euro 4 vehicles exist across Europe, and they have reported good results. We urge not throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Richard Lyle mentioned London. London is a great example, because there is now a situation in which there is a low-emission zone and an ultra-low-emission zone, and the London borough of Hackney is setting up its own different emission zone within the emission zone. We have to watch and guard that we do not set up a different system in different areas or cities that are taking on the concept of low-emission zones.

The geography of Scotland means that there is a very high likelihood that someone who delivers to Glasgow will deliver to Edinburgh or even Dundee on the same day. It is very unlikely that they will deliver to all three places, but that is a possibility. Having a vehicle that is eligible to drive into Edinburgh but not into Glasgow or into Dundee but not into Edinburgh seems ridiculous. We have to guard against setting up different standards. The approach will undoubtedly have an effect on the industry and who is allowed to deliver into those areas.

Richard Lyle

I have read that, in the likes of London, there are companies that deliver outside the zones and transfer goods on to other vehicles, which can deliver into the zones. Is that the case?

Martin Reid

Yes, that is the case. The idea of distribution centres is not new. Our members are paid to deliver from point A to point B, and if point B is a distribution centre, so be it. We understand that, in many cases, the trucks that go into city centres do not operate at their most efficient because of stopping and starting and congestion, for example. Therefore, that is one answer to delivery problems. However, I remind members that, for every 44-tonne articulated lorry, it takes 28 van loads to cover the load. I also remind members that customer expectations are vastly different from what they were a few years ago. When a person is having a glass of wine late one night, they can go on to a well-known shopping site and order something from the other side of Europe, which will arrive the next day. That will be done on the back of a lorry. We have to understand that the concept of service has changed and that even distribution centres will bring their own congestion problems. Even if electric vehicles take goods in from the distribution centre, the added traffic has to be considered.

The Convener

Tony Kenmuir, do you want to come in on that?

Tony Kenmuir

My business has carbon neutral accreditation—we supply cook pots in Guatemala and help to reforest Uganda to offset our carbon emissions. We do that because it helps us to win business from customers such as the Parliament and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

In our industry, we are moving apace. The standard of the vehicles is improving: they are newer and produce lower emissions. We are planting trees or doing whatever else we need to do to reduce our carbon footprint. We are doing all of those things because they make economic and commercial sense for us. There is a lot happening in the industry that does not need to be forced on us.

For me, as usual, the devil is in the detail. It is a question of rolling up our sleeves and making sure that what is applied is logical. I think that, by 2023, all the taxis in the major cities in Scotland will be Euro 6 compliant, electric or hybrid. That will happen without any interference or governance—that is happening anyway.

However, once we scratch below the surface a wee bit, we come across things that muddy the waters. For example, in Edinburgh and Glasgow at the moment, it is okay to sell on or buy a Euro 5 taxi as long as it is already in the city, but it is not okay to import one from outside the city. I cannot buy a Euro 5 taxi from London even if it has lower mileage, produces lower emissions, is in better condition and would cost me less, but I can buy such a vehicle in Edinburgh because it is already here. Things like that, where the detail is overly complicated and not terribly logical, muddy the waters.

We are managing our fleet anyway. Dundee, in particular, is a leading light as far as the introduction of electric vehicles into the taxi fleet is concerned and is worthy of a mention. In Edinburgh and Glasgow, where low-emission zones are proposed, the taxi fleet will be where it needs to be anyway.

The Convener

Richard Lyle has a follow-up question.

Richard Lyle

I am reminded of the fact that there are 32 councils in Scotland, which have 32 different ways of dealing with taxis. I well remember that.

Do the low-emission proposals in the bill strike the right balance—I think that you are saying that they do not—between consistency across Scotland and local authorities having the ability to devise schemes that are appropriate to local circumstances? If not, what changes would you like to be made?

Neil Greig

Consistency is important for our members. We represent private car drivers, who do not want to have to have a different permit to enable them to go into every one of the 32 council areas in Scotland or each of the four cities. We are already seeing such a situation across Europe. Some of the motoring clubs that we work with in Europe put together a stunt whereby they stuck every permit that was needed to drive around Europe on the front of a car. With 26 bits of paper on the vehicle, it was not possible to see out of it. We do not want to go down that line; we want to have consistency.

In addition, we do not want the market to be distorted by the early introduction of measures such as the banning of Euro 5 vehicles. Even though that would stop people going into a low-emission zone, it would have a knock-on effect on the market in general. It would make it very difficult to sell an old diesel, which would mean that cars might be scrapped early and people would make losses. In other words, there would be economic impacts beyond the low-emission zone.

Consistency is our number 1 priority. We do not want there to be a different scheme in every area. That said, in places such as Germany, local authorities are going down the road of encouraging the retrofitting of Euro 5 vehicles to bring them up to Euro 6 standards. That is particularly the case for diesels. The technology exists and the process is not that difficult. Although we would like the same kind of sanctions and the same kind of controls to be used across the low-emission zones, that would not stop local authorities, if they wanted to, funding a retrofit programme for some of the vehicles in their area. There should be a bit of flexibility in that respect, but we believe that the core elements of low-emission zones—how they are run, how they are organised and how they are enforced—should be consistent across Scotland.

Gavin Thomson

I would like to come back on that point. As I mentioned earlier, there is concern about the fact that the objectives of a low-emission zone scheme are not set out in the bill, even though it says that any penalty moneys that are paid should be used by the local authority to further the objectives of the zone. We do not know what those objectives are, but the local authorities will have to spend money on them. That is a good example. We need clarity on what those objectives are. If one objective is a blanket reduction in air pollution, funding retrofit schemes might be appropriate. If compliance with the European Union legislation that Scottish cities are currently breaking is what is sought, a different approach might be necessary.

We all agree that national consistency is important. We said in our submission that various factors to do with how low-emission zones operate should be reserved to the minister, including the hours of operation and other aspects of how the scheme works, such as the automatic number plate recognition. There is also a section of the bill that allows a local authority to suspend its low-emission zone scheme for events of national importance. It is up to the local authority to decide what is nationally important, even though it would seem more appropriate for a Scottish Government minister to determine what constitutes an event of such national importance that it would justify the suspension of a low-emission zone scheme.

The Convener

I want to find out whether Richard Lyle would like to follow up on that, because we have a huge number of questions, and I think that some of what you are saying will come out later.

Richard Lyle

I have the answers that I was looking for. Thank you.

The Convener

I have a quick question before we move on to Colin Smyth’s questions. When we heard about the situation in London, we discovered that consensus is hugely important in getting people to buy into and take ownership of such schemes and to participate willingly in low-emission zones.

I declare an interest as an owner of a Euro 5 vehicle. I will not get rid of it before 2022, because it will have to earn every pound that I paid for it. Do you think that keeping a Euro 5 vehicle beyond 2022 would be particularly damaging, bearing in mind that I and many other people were encouraged to buy Euro 5 vehicles, as Martin Reid mentioned in the context of hauliers? I believe that 10 years is nothing when it comes to the life of vehicles in this day and age. Who would like to comment on that?

Neil Greig

I do not have the figure to hand, but some research was carried out that suggested that the vast majority of the pollution is caused by a small minority of badly run and badly maintained vehicles. Our view is that if the vehicle is maintained properly, although it will not meet the Euro 6 standards—it will meet the standards that applied at the time that it was bought—it will be a cleaner vehicle. Using it less will help, too.

We have difficulty in understanding why, even though local authorities have had the power to roadside test vehicles for many years, very few—if any—of them do it. A van or a car can go through a city spewing black smoke, yet nobody will carry out enforcement. The MOT regulations have been tightened up only recently. That is one of many measures that are being taken to improve the emissions from vehicles. We would like local authorities to use some of the powers that they already have to target that minority of badly maintained vehicles.

The Convener

As far as you are concerned, Euro 5 vehicles are less of a problem than badly maintained vehicles.

Neil Greig

A badly maintained Euro 6 vehicle will be as much of an issue as a badly maintained Euro 5 vehicle.

The Convener

Tony Kenmuir would like to answer that question, too.

Tony Kenmuir

You have echoed a point that I made earlier. It is far more ecologically sound to keep a well-maintained vehicle running than it is to replace it with a new one. The licensing authorities around Scotland all have a testing regime whereby they bring the taxis in for annual inspections. Sometimes, they inspect them on a six-monthly basis; as vehicles get older, they might be inspected even more frequently than that. As part of that process, the vehicles’ emissions are tested. Perhaps naively, I have taken that for granted.

You mentioned London, where bus usage is falling. Private car ownership is tailing off there, too. I have heard an interesting theory that that is because people find it a distraction from looking at their smartphone. [Laughter.] An exponential rise in on-demand transport, which is the space that we occupy, is taking place. In London, there were 6 million journeys a day in on-demand transport in 2016, and last year there were 30 million journeys—the figure increased by a factor of five in one year. According to Morgan Stanley, half of all driven miles will be in on-demand transport by 2025, so our marketplace is growing exponentially.

10:30  

The only issue for us is that any given licensing authority might have slightly different regulation for the public hire taxi. In other words, there might be slightly different licensing regimes. Our only concern is that a public hire taxi that is licensed in one area can make it in to drop off in a low-emission zone in another area. As long as the public hire taxi has access—it is hard to believe that anyone would rule that out—and the local authorities manage their emissions on a scale, we will be happy.

The Convener

Martin Reid, do you want to say something brief about Euro 5 and Euro 6?

Martin Reid

I will be as quick as humanly possible. Euro 5 is not too much of an issue for us. We understand the need for Euro 6 as it is categorised as ultra-low emission, but we have the most heavily regulated industry. We are far more heavily regulated than the aviation industry, for example. We have legal requirements for the maintenance of our vehicles. We also have spot checks from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, and we are under the auspices of a traffic commissioner. If you do not uphold the promises that you made on your operator’s licence—including environmental concerns—you could lose your licence. The traffic commissioner can take a number of different steps.

We understand the requirement for Euro 6 but it would not be a disaster for our industry should Euro 5 be considered appropriate. It would also help a number of hauliers who would find it difficult to bridge the gap. However, as I said, we understand the position on Euro 6.

The Convener

Gavin Thomson, do you want to comment on private Euro 5 cars? I will have to ask you to be brief.

Gavin Thomson

As a point of clarification, convener, you mentioned that you will not be getting rid of your car before 2022, which is great but, as the bill is drafted, the low-emission zone schemes will not affect you until many years after that. We need to bear in mind for turnover of fleet and particularly for people thinking that they need to buy a new car that we are looking quite far into the future on some of this stuff. Under the provisions in the bill, 2024 would be the earliest that a local authority would be allowed to implement a low-emission zone scheme. That is six years before people would need to look at changing their cars.

Another point that we have not touched on enough is that, in addition to turnover of the fleet and people changing their cars, we need to think about changing the mode of travel. That is why the low-emission zones in the bill are so appropriate, because in order to reduce air pollution, we need to move people out of private car travel. Public transport needs to be expanded and improved to give people a different option. If you still have your Euro 5 car in 2022, that would be wonderful, but it would be great if there was a bus option that made any journey you were thinking about taking just as attractive as taking your car.

The Convener

I take the point but getting a bus from the rural Highlands of Scotland down into Glasgow might be a challenge.

Colin Smyth, I am about to come to you. However, I am just noting that I am not sure if there is a list of exempted vehicles for people who drive old cars. If you have an old Morris Minor, or any old car, will you be penalised if you want to go into Glasgow? Maybe that is something we need to take up.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

Earlier on, Mr Kenmuir made the point that the devil will be in the detail. One of the big challenges facing the committee is that much of how LEZs will work will be in the regulations set by the Government and ministers rather than in the legislation itself. That is obviously a challenge for us as a committee. Have your organisations been consulted or have you discussed the development of those regulations with the Government? Has it asked for your views on what those detailed regulations on LEZs should say?

Tony Kenmuir

I have a meeting with Transport Scotland on Friday to follow up on that consultation at a national level. There has been a great deal of consultation with the local authorities in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

I think this was touched on earlier. When I met representatives from the City of Edinburgh Council, they could not tell me where the LEZ was going to be, which vehicles would get in and which would not, and when it would happen. I took a lot of comfort from that. My concern is that when a local authority is granted a power, unless it is given very specific instruction on how to use it, it tends not to be applied. The instruction needs to be very clear and very prescriptive.

We are consulting with local authorities and with Transport Scotland at a national level, so we are comfortable that we are being consulted at all levels, if that answers the question.

Colin Smyth

Is that the case for all organisations?

Martin Reid

We are more than happy with the way that things have gone and the level of consultation that has been involved. We have met senior ministers and we meet Transport Scotland regularly. Having seen what is going on in many areas south of the border, I appreciate the consultative way that the Scottish Government has gone about this.

Gavin Thomson

I do not necessarily have regular meetings with ministers or senior staff within Transport Scotland.

Just to expand my earlier point, the commitment is for low-emission zones to be in place in the four cities by the end of 2020. We are now in October 2018. Thinking through the timeline for secondary legislation, not just the detail of it, we want to be clear about when exactly after the bill becomes an act we can expect to see the secondary legislation so that local authorities have time to include all stakeholders and ensure that they are implementing effective low-emission zones. The timeline of that is something to keep in mind.

Colin Smyth

On timelines, I want to come back to an issue that we have touched on, and that is the fact that the grace period is up to six years. I get the impression that there are clearly split views on the grace period. What do you think the grace period should be?

Gavin Thomson

As a general point, obviously we have spoken a bit about the challenges that face particular industries and how they clearly need to be supported through the transition. That might mean a different grace period for different industries or it might mean Government financial support.

More broadly, looking at the entire fleet—all the vehicles on the road—the current grace period of six years before low-emission zones are finally in place is far too long. There is an option for additional years and it does not seem to be justified. If we take a national approach to communicating the need for low-emission zones to people, the grace periods can be shortened by a couple of years.

Neil Greig

There is a need to have some form of grace period because consumers are quite confused. There has been a lot of change happening in emissions information. The information that is on a new car has all changed. We now have a new way of assessing CO2 and NO2 emissions from a car. Those are real driving emissions and that is where the dieselgate scandal came in.

The information on the car that someone buys now might say that it does 50 miles per gallon but no one ever gets 50 miles per gallon out of a car. That is the official urban and motorway figure, but a new set of figures is coming out. Consumers have to deal with a new MOT system and a new set of figures on the vehicle that might impact on company car tax, and of course they are taking on Euro 6 at the same time and trying to understand what Euro 5 and Euro 6 are. It takes time for these things to work through, and as that happens, they will deliver cleaner air anyway because there will be more Euro 6.

This week, the Westminster Government stopped the grant for hybrid vehicles; it ran out of money, and the grant has been slashed in half for electric vehicles. When high-level things like that happen, it also adds to confusion and consumers do not know what choices to make.

Allowing a lot of time is a good thing but, in some ways, it is also a slightly bad thing because most people buy their new cars on a three or four-year private finance plan cycle. They are starting to make decisions now about the new cars they will buy in the early 2020s. At the moment they are still not deciding to buy hybrids and electrics. We need to get some consistent messages out there. Certainly, over time, however, we will see more clean vehicles and the more of them that come on the roads, the cleaner the air will become.

Jamie Greene

We need to be really careful about the language that we are using in the committee. There is no suggestion there will be a six-year grace period. The six years is the maximum in the bill as it is currently drafted, and it may not end up like that, and it is for residents of a zone. The minimum grace period is actually one year for non-residents. A local authority has the choice of introducing it now or waiting for four years, and we do not know what they will do. It is worth making that point.

It is highly likely that the spending decisions that consumers and businesses make about their vehicles is based on the information that they have now. If we are being told that information is patchy and sketchy at the moment, but the zones could be in place by 2021 and not 2025 as Mr Thomson suggests, I am inclined to be quite worried that we are not giving out enough detailed information to businesses and consumers. Does anyone agree or disagree?

Tony Kenmuir

I am in a slightly strange position because the target is already set and Edinburgh and Glasgow probably have the fleet where it needs to be ahead of time, so it is done already.

The debate we had at that level was very aggressive. I mentioned earlier that, in Edinburgh, we will have to replace half our fleet in this coming year. We put a number of questions to the licensing authority, such as whether it had considered whether that number of vehicles would be available to buy.

I want to touch on one point quickly. The taxi trade is unlikely to receive any form of subsidy. We have had access to finance through the Energy Saving Trust, which has put finance in place for people who currently have the oldest vehicles. It started with interest-free loans for people whose taxis were more than 10 years old so that they could buy new taxis. That is completely wrong. You need to create a food chain. It will be the same for HGVs and other vehicles. There has to be a food chain. An owner-operator who is keeping his vehicle running around the clock, who is part of one of the big radio companies and who has a very high cost base, finances brand new vehicles, depreciates them over three to five years and sells them on. He has to sell them on so that he gets some return—some residual value—to finance the new vehicles. Therefore the person you want to give the finance to is the one with the newest vehicle because you want them to keep changing it and you want their vehicles to make their way down the food chain and create that second-hand market.

You are not going to get into that kind of detail here and I do not want to confuse you but I do want to illustrate the fact that the money is often not put in the right place. We are not thinking a couple of steps ahead to how the economy really works with these vehicles. I do not think those considerations are part of the equation at the moment.

The Convener

We are short of time, but you have raised an interesting point so we may come back to it later. Peter Chapman, could you go into your next set of questions?

Peter Chapman

Mr Kenmuir has led very nicely into my next question. We have heard about how the changes to vehicles are necessary and the costs that they incur. What, if any, financial support should be offered to vehicle owners living or working within an LEZ to replace or upgrade non-compliant vehicles?

The Convener

That is a difficult question. Who would like to lead off on it? Tony Kenmuir?

Tony Kenmuir

Will I put a number on it?

The Convener

Your previous comment made your position clear.

Neil Greig

The survey that we did on this showed that, among private car drivers, the most popular option was to subsidise better buses, vans and lorries. It is this them and us thing—private cars versus the larger vehicles. Certainly, there is a perception out there that buses, lorries and vans are the main issue and therefore private car people would like to see the money targeted on those vehicles first.

I cannot give you a figure for what you would need to give people. If you have that clarity, people know the timescales and so on, it will help the market to stabilise. It is a very difficult market for second-hand electric vehicles at the moment because there are so few.

I will quote a figure I got yesterday from the “RAC Report on Motoring 2018”. It asked Scots what their choice of next vehicle will be and 17 per cent chose a diesel, 54 per cent a petrol, 14 per cent a conventional hybrid, 6 per cent a plug-in hybrid, and only 2 per cent a purely electrical vehicle. People are still not thinking about the most environmentally-friendly vehicles, so that situation needs to change. Incentives will help that, but getting the incentives in the right place and to the right people is quite a challenge.

On the face of it, we thought that a diesel scrappage scheme would be great but an analysis of that has shown it does not necessarily deliver what you want either. Therefore you have to be very careful where the money is targeted.

We need consistent messaging about the money because grants can suddenly stop and that distorts the market. In general terms, private car motorists would like to see money spent on the larger vehicles rather than on their own vehicles.

10:45  

The Convener

Does Martin Reid want all the money to go to lorries?

Martin Reid

That sounds like a wonderful idea. [Laughter.] I mentioned that although technically there is no approved retrofit option just now, GreenUrban Technologies Ltd has indicated that, depending on engine size, retrofitting an HGV would run between £11,000 and £25,000, which is a fairly substantial investment.

I will give a bit of context to let you understand how the industry has been let down in the past. As some members may know, a class action was brought against the truck manufacturers, which were found guilty of price fixing over the period 1997 to 2011. I am not going to divulge too much about this because there is a case in the Competition Appeal Tribunal, but part of the argument is about the price fixing of Euro 6 technology and the delay in implementing it. The truck manufacturers had the Euro 6 technology, but delayed bringing it to the industry so that they could get rid of their Euro 5 stock. We were stymied at the start of this, and the knock-on effect is that we are not as far ahead as we should be.

We had a chat outside the room about how much easier it is to bring an industry to the point where you want it to be by helping it, rather than by dragging it kicking and screaming. Although we would love a scrappage scheme, we realise that a scheme is very unlikely. We would certainly like some help in the form of a grant, particularly for SMEs, so that the industry can upgrade and we can bridge the gap between Euro 5 and Euro 6. It is only over the past year or so that we have seen second-hand Euro 6 vehicles enter the market when the bigger guys move on. We have no option, however; you cannot buy anything other than a Euro 6 engine now.

Peter Chapman

I sound a note of caution. There will certainly not be a bottomless pit of money to help the process happen—you need to be fairly cautious about that.

My next question is about automatic number plate recognition. Do you have any concerns about ANPR enforcement and, if so, how should those concerns be addressed? The Road Haulage Association’s submission says that there are concerns about how foreign trucks would be policed.

Martin Reid

There are already issues with foreign trucks. Who knows—maybe Brexit will sort that out. We will have to wait to find out.

Our main concern with ANPR relates to the number of private plates in our industry. Those private plates get moved around the fleet. Through ANPR, it would be fairly easy to assume that a truck was older than it really was because of the number plate on it. It is not a flawless system.

ANPR is a good thing, particularly when it comes to compliance. We see that from its use on bridges and so on—we deal with Transport Scotland a lot in relation to findings and the education process. However, it is not without its problems for our industry.

Peter Chapman

Do you think that foreign trucks will be registered on the system? Will anybody know how old a foreign truck is, for instance?

Martin Reid

They are licensed in another country, so unless you can access that information, the answer is no.

Neil Greig

I do not think that camera use is universally popular, but it certainly works. It runs everything for private cars. It requires an appeals process, which can add to costs and so on, but we have an appeals process for parking and bus lane enforcement that is working okay at the moment.

Peter Chapman

Is the private plate issue that Martin Reid mentioned an issue for private cars as well?

Neil Greig

In my experience, it should not be an issue for cars because a private plate will still be linked to the V5, which will have the Euro standard on it. The databases should all talk to one another. At the moment, databases only tend to be used for things such as addresses and so on for fines, but if they can be linked to the emissions information, which is on the documents, that should be okay.

The Convener

We have heard before about low-emission zones and the cost of putting an ANPR system in place. It was okay in London because the system was tied in with congestion charging. We have not had any pricing for ANPR cameras around low-emission zones. It would not be insubstantial, even if static cameras were to be used. There was certainly some feeling that the fines would not cover the costs of implementation in London. Maybe we need to look at that more.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

I had a couple of questions about the Road Haulage Association’s submission, but I will roll them into one. The other witnesses may want to comment, but this is aimed at Martin Reid.

In your submission, you say:

“In the worst case, a haulier failing to comply with a LEZ could find themselves being brought to the attention of the traffic commissioner. We believe this would be overtly punitive for what could be a minor transgression.”

Can you explain that?

You also say:

“Glasgow will not have the infrastructure to properly enforce its LEZ until 2023, meaning the bus fleet will be unaffected by a LEZ”

but

“the road haulage industry will be penalised immediately”.

I did not understand that point either.

Martin Reid

There are two points. First, this has been a learning curve for us as well. You mentioned the point that we make about Office of the Traffic Commissioner for Scotland. We contacted Richard Turfitt, the senior traffic commissioner, to find out whether, as I mentioned, the promises made on a haulage licence application include environmental promises. The Office of the Traffic Commissioner has come back and said that it will not look at driving an ineligible vehicle into a low-emission zone as a serious enough offence to jeopardise the operator’s licence, whereas someone who tips hazardous material in their yard is definitely committing a serious offence. After we sent in our submission, we did some follow-up work—

John Mason

You have reassurance on that.

Martin Reid

We have reassurance that what we say in the submission will not be the case.

There are two sides to the other point that you asked about. First, the bus industry will have had four years of an active retrofit system, whereas we have no retrofit option yet, and 2023 is coming around very quickly.

Also, bus operators know what standard is going to be required of them, but we have not had word from any of the local authorities about the standard that we will be asked to operate to. The longer that that goes on, the less time we will have to adapt to the standard. We all assume that the standard will be Euro 6, but we have had no clarification of that. The bus operators have had that clarification so they have been able to get their house in order over a longer period of time. We do not have that luxury; we are only making assumptions.

John Mason

The issue is the detail around preparing for an LEZ, rather than there being enforcement of one sector but not of another.

Martin Reid

That is right, yes. I will not pass the buck, as other people were consulted, but we heard from Glasgow City Council that it is not confident of being able to have the enforcement side of things ready by 2023 so that the buses can be measured.

John Mason

Should the same equipment be used to measure vehicles in both the haulage and bus sectors?

Martin Reid

That should happen, so it is an equipment issue as much as anything else.

John Mason

It would affect the bus and haulage sectors evenly.

Martin Reid

Absolutely, yes.

John Mason

That helps to clarify things. Thank you.

Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

I have two questions. I preface my first question by saying that, as it stands, the current law prevents anyone from driving on footways or pavements. In principle, do the witnesses support the prohibitions in the bill on pavement parking and double parking?

Martin Reid

In principle, yes. We absolutely support that and do not see any issue with it. However, we would point out that there are certain occasions when, because of the size of their truck, drivers making deliveries find it almost essential to go on to the pavement so as not to obstruct traffic.

Mike Rumbles

That means breaking the law.

Martin Reid

Yes, but in a lot of cases there is no delivery point at the shop, so if someone wants a delivery that is what happens.

Let me give another example. When someone delivers to a building site for the first time, they often do not know what is going on at that site. The normal practice would be for them to park up outside and walk in on foot to see what it is that they are driving into. They might not have room to reverse and so on.

In principle, we have no issue with the prohibitions, but there are occasions when our guys have very little alternative, other than blocking the highway, when doing a delivery.

Neil Greig

We have taken the fairly simple view that we do not like a blanket-ban approach. Local flexibility should remain. Clearly, we do not condone illegal driving. Advanced drivers do not do illegal things—well, sometimes they do. However, in certain areas in Scotland parking on the pavement is almost a necessity. It is encouraged by some local authorities. When I did a piece for the BBC recently, we quite quickly found a place in the west end of Glasgow where the road is marked out for parking on the pavement in order to allow access for other vehicles.

I do not believe that there are thousands and thousands of Scottish drivers deliberately parking on the pavement in order to block pedestrians, because they all become pedestrians themselves when they get out of their vehicle. I worry that in smaller towns or the suburbs a blanket-ban approach might have unintended consequences. It should be dealt with on a local, case-by-case basis. If something is an issue, it should be enforced.

Of course, the other issue is enforcement. If something is going to be unenforceable it will be ignored anyway—we see that with a lot of our parking regulations. It is the blanket-ban approach that we have objected to, rather than the concept.

Gavin Thomson

If a representative of an active travel organisation were here, I am sure that they would make the point that improving the pedestrian environment goes hand in hand with tackling air pollution. I guess that that is how we see restricting pavement parking and the low-emission zones being tied together. I certainly support such a restriction in principle as something that prioritises the pedestrian in the street environment.

Martin Reid

By way of example, without pavement parking there would be great difficulty in delivering to concert venues, music halls—that dates me a bit—and so on, where access is not necessarily from a road, which then becomes an issue for deliveries.

Mike Rumbles

I know that my question was about a blanket ban, but the bill allows councils to provide exemptions in certain areas such as residential streets. The whole point of the bill is to ensure safe passage for pedestrians and particularly for people who are disabled or who need a vehicle to go on the pavement.

Objections have been raised to the exemption in the bill that will allow people to park on the pavement for up to 20 minutes. Several people are concerned that, if allowance for parking of up to 20 minutes becomes the norm, the bill will allow people to park for 20 minutes and obstruct a pavement. This question is particularly for the Road Haulage Association. If the law was changed to allow parking on the pavement for 20 minutes as long as there was a wide gap for the disabled, would that be an appropriate compromise?

Martin Reid

If there is a facility to not use the pavement at all, our guys would happily utilise that. As for the 20 minutes, some deliveries cannot be done in 20 minutes, which becomes problematic. For example, with an order from B&Q, the driver might have to do what is called in common parlance handballing, which means that they will have to physically move whatever has been ordered, which might involve taking it off an uneven road on to a pavement and up a driveway to somebody’s house. It is very difficult to do that in 20 minutes, and it will be very difficult to do it without blocking a street or compromising the pavement.

Mike Rumbles

The whole point of part 4 of the bill is to free up the pavements for pavement users, but you seem to be saying that that will not happen with the 20-minute exemption.

11:00  

Martin Reid

I am saying that, in principle, we are more than happy with that. We do not want to park on pavements, but there are deliveries where it is not possible to do anything other than that. The 20 minutes should be more than enough for most deliveries, but there are deliveries that will not be able to be completed in 20 minutes.

Mike Rumbles

You said when you answered my first question that the law is broken at the moment. Do you think that the provision in the bill is enforceable?

Martin Reid

Parking is a massive issue right across the country. When urban planners or planning authorities are looking to build shopping centres or anything in town, they rarely factor in loading bays. Shops need their equipment and houses need their deliveries, but deliveries are never factored in because space is such a priority.

I mentioned the bad weather in February, when our industry was vilified for making deliveries in the snow. There were countless shouts of, “They shouldn’t be on the road.” Where else are they meant to go once they are on the road? Sometimes, these guys are not making drops from a local depot. In many cases—certainly the ones that were called out by the First Minister—it was guys from the south of England who were on day 3 or day 4 of a tramp round the UK and who could not possibly get back to the depot while the bad weather was happening and there was no parking facility off road.

It is an issue not just across Scotland, but right across the UK. People seem to imagine that deliveries just happen magically by elves. That is not the case. There are practicalities involved in people getting things such as furniture, old people getting their food and medicine and chemists getting their equipment. All those things involve a delivery and, in a lot of cases, no provision is made for that delivery to happen.

John Mason

I want to pick up on something that Mr Greig said. I have sympathy with the idea that, in some cases, it is considerate drivers who put two wheels on the pavement and therefore do not block the road for Mr Reid’s drivers.

Have you picked up any information on whether councils are going to introduce a lot of exemptions? I have started a list in my constituency. I am at 20 streets—I think that I will get to about 100—where I believe that wheels should be allowed on the pavements. Are councils going to do that? Do they have the resources under the finance part of the bill? Should it be the other way round? Are you saying that councils should have to mark specific streets where people are not allowed to put wheels on the pavement?

Neil Greig

I do not have that data, as we do not collect it. I have had no feedback from our members in Scotland that they are interested in particular streets, so I cannot answer that question. It could work either way. If councils are willing to use that flexibility, we would perhaps be less dogmatic in our views on a blanket approach. Certainly, there needs to be flexibility in the bill, which is the key thing. There will be roads where the ban works.

Drivers are often like sheep, in that one or two neighbours do it and then everybody along the street does it. The one who does not do it is then vilified for sticking to the law and parking with four wheels on the road. You need to be aware of that sort of local community feedback. If there was a mechanism for gathering that kind of detail—it is the street-by-street detail that causes people hassle—and if local authorities were encouraged to do that under the bill, we would certainly welcome that.

The Convener

I am sorry, but I am not going to bring in Tony Kenmuir on double parking, because we know that taxis never do it.

Maureen Watt (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

I hope that Mr Reid was not suggesting that vehicles should be exempt from severe weather warnings. There are plenty of places to park up if there are severe weather warnings.

The bill has to be seen in the round in terms of other things such as active travel. It is not just a case of allowing a single pedestrian to go along a pavement. In my view, pavements should be wide enough to let double buggies and buggies for the disabled pass each other. One thing that bothers me and that has been brought up by my constituents is parking in front of dropped kerbs, which is a real issue when vehicles are loading and offloading.

Much of what we are discussing today will eventually be set out in a Government parking standards document. Have your organisations been involved in the drafting of such a document or do you expect to be?

Martin Reid

We have had discussions in the area. We are not militant about it in any way. We understand that there has to be access and egress. We will not put up a protest about that—it is common sense as far as we are concerned—but there will be bad practice in many cases. We are involved and we hope that we will continue to be involved as the process continues.

Gavin Thomson

To my knowledge, we have not been involved. I encourage the committee to read the section of our submission on a workplace parking levy, which talks about how parking can be used to support work in other areas that are covered by the bill, such as low-emission zones and public transport.

Tony Kenmuir

We understand the principles of the conflict for space. Everybody thinks that they are a priority. We have a lot of debate with licensing authorities over the provision of taxi ranking spaces and so on, but we have not been part of any formal consultation on parking standards.

Neil Greig

By pure coincidence, Transport Scotland has invited me—along with many others, including a range of local authorities—to a parking standards meeting on 14 November, although I believe that it has been pushed back into December. Transport Scotland is actively bringing together people to look at parking standards.

The Convener

That concludes the evidence session. I would normally now suspend the meeting to allow the witnesses to leave, but we have one other item that we are going to consider in public and I want to move on to that, so I ask you to remain in your seats.

Subordinate Legislation
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Road Traffic (Permitted Parking Area and Special Parking Area) (Falkirk Council) Designation Order 2018 (SSI 2018/279)

Parking Attendants (Wearing of Uniforms) (Falkirk Council Parking Area) Regulations 2018 (SSI 2018/280)

Road Traffic (Parking Adjudicators) (Falkirk Council) Regulations 2018 (SSI 2018/281)

Plant Health (Scotland) Amendment (No 2) Order 2018 (SSI 2018/283)

Marketing of Ornamental Plant Propagating Material Amendment (Scotland) Regulations 2018 (SSI 2018/284)

The Convener

Item 4 is consideration of five negative instruments. Three of them introduce a decriminalised parking regime within the Falkirk Council area. Twenty Scottish local authorities have already introduced decriminalised parking regimes. The remaining two instruments cover issues relating to plants in respect of pests and red plant weevil.

No motions to annul have been received in relation to the instruments. Is the committee agreed that it does not wish to make any recommendation in relation to the instruments?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener

Before we move into private session, I thank the witnesses for giving their time to the committee.

11:08 Meeting continued in private until 11:41.