Scottish Government spent over £500k to plug controversial low emission zones

Aberdeen's new LEZ went live last weekend
-Credit: (Image: Steve Kydd / Alamy Stock Photo)

The Scottish Government paid a public relations firm almost £13,400 every day for over a month to plug the controversial low emissions zones (LEZ), including the newly-launched zone in Aberdeen.

Officials handed £508,886 to Manchester-based Republic of Medie for 38 days of work to raise awareness of the zones in Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh, despite having an army of government staff to call on.

According to the Daily Mail, the contract, worth £13,391 every day, was awarded by quango Transport Scotland. Ministers have already dished out £1.5million of taxpayer money to PR firms to advertise the LEZs.

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While the LEZ in Glasgow has now been in force for a year, Aberdeen and Edinburgh's came into force on Saturday, June 1 while Dundee's was on May 30, writes the Scottish Daily Express.

The zones have been hugely contentious with businesses in Glasgow saying it has had a major impact on footfall, Reacting to the spend, nightclub owner Donald MacLeod said: "To spend this amount on PR for an unwanted policy based on flawed science is outrageous and a disgrace.

"Government in Scotland should be collaborating with business and people, rather than passing punitive policies like this. Transport Scotland should be supporting motorists, not continually making things more difficult for them."

Meanwhile a demonstration was held on Saturday coinciding with Aberdeen's LEZ launch on the city's Castlegate as frustrated motorists protested against the new measures.

Millions of pounds in fines have been dished out to drivers who have broken the LEZ rules. Certain vehicles, said to be big emitters of pollution, are banned from city centres but critics claim they do not have an impact on air quality.

A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: "Through our communications work more than nine out of ten people are now aware of LEZs."

Meanwhile, hundreds of taxis found themselves off the roads of Glasgow on Saturday when the deadline for the LEZ time-limited extension came to an end.

Around 350 taxis were thought to not be compliant. One driver whose car does meet standards told the Scottish Express Saturday was an "exceptionally busy" day as drivers struggled to keep up with demand.

They added: "Whether that was the weather combined with it being pay weekend remains to be seen."