I LOVE Glasgow in the sun, there is something about our city when the nights are bright, the cafe culture is booming and the town is full of people meeting, laughing, eating, and enjoying themselves – sometimes even having a wine or two as the sun goes down over the Clyde.

Images, thoughts, and memories that bring a certain pride to a Glaswegian like myself. I love my city.

But today, June 1, 2023, I am worried. Today is a historic day for Glasgow. Today is the day that the city council introduced the LEZ.

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Low Emission Zones or Local Economy Zapped.

You see today, the SNP administration has chosen to bulldoze ahead with the introduction of the LEZ into Glasgow’s city centre, despite stark warnings from businesses, residents and charities.

Glasgow’s city centre that has been pretty much under siege for the past 15 years from the continuous cuts from the Scottish Government (along with the rest of the city), Glasgow’s city centre that endured a tougher, longer and more brutal lockdown period than any city in England and Glasgow’s city centre where the cost-of-living crisis is hitting residents and businesses hardest of all.

Yes, that Glasgow city centre – and now we going to stop allowing cars – of certain ages, with certain emissions, of certain types into the inner city. And if you come in, fined.

Cars, that are mostly the means by which our taxi and private licence car drivers make their living. Vans that our charities, third sector organisations and volunteers use to provide vital services to vulnerable groups across the city. And older vehicles that some of our residents afford to allow them to go to work, visit sick relatives or make vital hospital visits.

Pushing those who can ill-afford a new car into further poverty and marginalisation. Well done the SNP administration.

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When the timeline of introducing LEZ was put to the City Administration Committee back in October, a whole paper was produced on how this SNP/Green coalition was going to ‘work’ alongside business and third-party organisations to ensure that they would be able to still function and operate as they have done, even after the introduction of the LEZ.

Of course, Labour supported this, we support the LEZ being introduced in a timely manner and support the move to a more sustainable environment.

But what we also support is our businesses, our workers and our communities.

These are all under threat now.

Glasgow Times: Image: Newsquest

When the motion came up for debate again in full council, earlier this year, we asked for a postponement of the LEZ.

We recognised that the cost of living crisis had hit our city nightlife harder than expected and that Susan Aitken’s team hadn’t engaged with these groups enough. We asked for the administration to work with groups that would help with funding for our taxi drivers’ retrofits.

It was clear to everyone, apart from our administration and their Green partners that this was how we could achieve both. They voted to plough ahead. Ploughing our city and our communities into further hardship.

There is no flip-flopping for Labour. We are consistent in our desire to deliver an LEZ, but we are also consistent in our support for our citizens.

We are consistent in our support and desire to deliver for our city.

Figures already show that Glasgow’s emission rates are under control and that there is vital time there to allow our business and charities a chance to get on board properly.

What is also clear is that our businesses are under threat because of this, in a survey conducted by UKHospitality Scotland, it showed that businesses were reporting a 101% rise in energy costs, which had seen 42% of businesses reducing hours and 34% open on fewer days. It also showed that hospitality suffered a 10% contraction in 2022.

Executive director Leon Thompson said: “Glasgow’s pubs, bars, restaurants and nightclubs should be supported so they can achieve their full potential in delivering for the city’s economy, not hindered. With businesses and jobs on the line, now is not the time to be making it harder for people to travel to and enjoy the very best the city has to offer.

“The LEZ introduction could have waited, could have been successful and could have taken Glaswegians with it.”

Instead, more businesses will close, more vulnerable groups with go without and people will be marginalised.

The SNP and Greens have failed Glasgow, again.