GLAGOW’S Low Emission Zone (LEZ) which came fully into force on Thursday is a long overdue step towards cleaner, safer air.

The zone covers the city centre, bounded by the M8 to the north and west, the Clyde to the south, and the High Street and Saltmarket to the east. Any non-exempt vehicle which doesn’t meet required emissions standards will be subject to a penalty charge each time it enters the zone.

Penalties start at £60 and could rise to £480 for subsequent offences.

The vast majority of vehicles will comply – generally, only those pre-2006 for petrol cars and pre-2015 for diesel will have to stay out of the zone – but excluding those most-polluting vehicles will make a big difference.

The aim is to address Glasgow’s long-standing problems with air pollution.

Hope Street remains the most polluted street in Scotland.

Air pollution effectively locks tens of thousands of people in the region who have chronic lung and respiratory conditions, like asthma, out of the city centre.

It is linked to around 2500 deaths in Scotland each year and places a completely avoidable burden on our already-stretched NHS.

That’s why the LEZ has been widely welcomed by charities including Asthma and Lung UK and British Lung Foundation, who, like the Scottish Greens, have campaigned for this over many years.

Opponents suggest it is rushed. That is nonsense.

Its introduction is more than a decade (3913 days to be exact) since the council first unanimously backed my Green colleague Martha Wardrop’s call for a Low Emission Zone.

The decision to implement one was taken back in 2017 and the first phase (for buses) began in 2018.

They also criticise the implementation and say that the LEZ is not needed because pollution is already falling.

What’s bizarre about those arguments is that improving air quality shows the scheme is already working – not only because buses are now compliant but also because many car, taxi and van drivers have made the switch to cleaner vehicles before the deadline and because more people are opting for active travel.

Indeed, one of the reasons a last-minute legal bid to stop the scheme was thrown out was because the council could produce a dossier showing how details of the scheme and options to comply with it have been widely communicated.

The LEZ is already cutting harmful pollution: moving to full enforcement will lock that in and help drive further improvements.

But while we should stay within legal limits we are still a long way off the levels recommended by the World Health Organisation, so we can and must go further.

We need a transformation in active travel and public transport, reversing decades under Labour where the private car was allowed to dominate city planning, despite Glasgow having one of the lowest levels of car ownership in the country.

While others show themselves to be unprincipled opportunists, it is Green councillors who will continue to provide the leadership needed to tackle health inequalities and face up to the climate crisis.