Identifying the economic impact from ultra-low emissions vehicle (ULEV) uptake

The transport sector presents Scotland’s biggest challenge to decarbonisation, with emissions increasing each year since 2010. In 2016, transport (including aviation and shipping) contributed 37% of Scotland’s total greenhouse gas emissions. However, Scotland has shown strong ambition in this area. When this research was completed in March 2020, the Scottish Government had pledged to remove the need for new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032, a target it subsequently said it would bring forward to 2030 in its Climate Change Plan update of December 2020.

To help Transport Scotland develop interventions, this report has: identified the economic impacts; developed a detailed framework to assess them; and used the outcomes to highlight the implications for policies to smooth the transition to ULEVs. 

We have concentrated on a scenario, prepared by Element Energy, which comes closest to meeting Scotland’s climate change targets. This scenario achieves the 2040 and 2045 targets, and almost meets the 2030 target.


In this scenario, the overall economic impacts are positive over the long term:

  • Gross Value Added (GVA) is higher in this scenario than in the baseline (in which ULEV deployment remains in proportion with that which occurred in 2018 in Scotland) across all years from 2027 to 2050.
  • In the short term, GVA is lower for two main reasons: higher investment costs and the high price of ULEVs (relative to internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEs)) which reduces consumer spending in other areas.
  • Total economy-wide employment (on a full-time equivalent basis) is higher by 2043 reaching a net gain by of 2,700 jobs by 2050 but is below the baseline for most of the period.
  • ICE maintenance jobs are most at risk from the transition to ULEVs. The framework shows that more than 10,000 ICE maintenance jobs could be at risk by 2050 as ULEV powertrains have different maintenance requirements. The jobs at risk are likely to be distributed widely across Scotland, reflecting the geographic distribution of maintenance garages.
  • The oil and gas industry also faces significant job losses. We estimate around 4,000 of the 30,000 people directly employed in the oil and gas sector in Scotland are at risk of losing their jobs. This will have a particularly acute impact in Aberdeenshire where most of these jobs are located.
  • Up to a further 2,500 job losses could be lost at refuelling stations, partly because many ULEVs will often be charged from home.
  • There is potential for the creation of around 3,000 new jobs in the production of ULEVs, drawing on Scotland’s extensive expertise in electrical engineering. In particular, there appears to be an opportunity in developing low-emission heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs). Our analysis suggests a further 500 jobs could be created at companies installing and operating ULEV infrastructure.

 The scenario also suggests substantial environmental benefits:

  • CO2 emissions are reduced by 113m tonnes or 49% cumulatively over 2020-2050, from 232m tonnes to 119m. These can be monetised to show a total annual net benefit of £1.076bn (not discounted) in 2050.
  • Improvements to air quality from the annual reduction in tailpipe emissions of NOx and PM2.5s are estimated to reduce annual damages to human health by the equivalent of £335m in 2050 alone.