The reaction of opposition parties to the commencement of Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone last week was depressingly predictable.

In fact, a clear pattern has now emerged in Scottish politics.

We are increasingly seeing policies deigned to tackle serious issues – in this case air pollution and climate change – which enjoy cross party support when they are first announced (indeed opposition parties often chide national or local government for not going fast enough), only to become political footballs at the point of implementation.

It has happened with the proposed Deposit Return Scheme – a policy that has also fallen foul of the UK Government’s campaign to undermine the Scottish Parliament – and now on the Low Emission Zone too.

It is important to recognise that, for the public, policies like these involve change that can be difficult to adapt to, at least initially.

It is understandable therefore that concerns are voiced by individuals and businesses.

There is an onus on government – whether local or national – to get the details right, to ensure reasonable lead-in times, to put in place appropriate financial support to help people adapt, and to respond constructively and dynamically to criticism and concerns where these have merit.

I absolutely accept that.

But there is also, surely, an onus on opposition parties not to be blatantly opportunist.

The entire world, not just Scotland, is facing big, era-defining challenges, like climate change. Devising and implementing solutions demands a level of political maturity that all too often Labour and the Tories seem to lack.

Of course, it is their job to scrutinise, and to criticise where that is merited, but indulging in knee-jerk opposition just for the sake of it lets the public down.

Glasgow Times: Nicola Sturgeon is supporting LEZNicola Sturgeon is supporting LEZ (Image: Sourced)

The fact is that initiatives like the Low Emission Zone are a response to real problems.

In Glasgow, the amount of nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere is way above the level recommended by the World Health Organisation, and above the level required by law.

This is not an abstract problem.

It is seriously damaging to our health.

Nitrogen dioxide – caused in part by vehicle emissions – damages our lungs.

It can cause lung cancer and seriously exacerbate conditions like asthma and COPD.

Action to tackle these high levels in our city centre is, if anything, long overdue.

A Low Emission Zone is about doing that. And Glasgow is far from the only city taking such action.

Early evidence also suggests that it will be effective – on the first day of the LEZ coming into force last week, it is reported that levels of nitrogen dioxide in Hope Street fell by a third.

That is good news for the health of Glaswegians.

It will also help tackle climate change. And it will make the city centre more attractive for residents and tourists alike.

For all these reasons, and despite the intensity of the debate in recent days, I believe the Low Emission Zone will come to be seen as a good and necessary step towards a cleaner environment.

As will be obvious, I am a strong supporter of the Low Emission Zone.

However, it is vital that policies to tackle pollution, encourage people out of cars, and make the city more liveable and breathable, are consistent.

There are two issues in my Southside constituency just now that suggest we have work still to do to achieve this.

First is an application for a new drive thru Starbucks in the Gorbals.

Even though it has some of the lowest levels of car ownership in the UK, Glasgow has more drive thru restaurants than other cities – indeed, the Gorbals already has a Costa drive thru.

It makes no sense to give the go ahead to yet more outlets that encourage people into cars rather than out of them, cause local congestion, add to pollution, and offer no obvious benefits to the communities they are located in.

Anyone who argues that someone driving to the Gorbals to pick up a latte at a drive thru is then going to park the car and shop locally is, to put it mildly, kidding themselves on.

So, I hope this application is rejected – for the sake of the Gorbals but also in the interests of joined up policy.

The second issue is the proposed closure of the Bank of Scotland on Albert Drive in Pollokshields.

Obviously, this isn’t a matter for government. It is also important to recognise that banks face difficult decisions as more people use their services online.

However, this branch serves a significant elderly population, many of whom choose to bank in person rather than online.

And, the fewer services that are available in local communities, the more people will be forced to use their cars.

The need to address this is one of the factors behind the Scottish Government’s ‘20-minute neighbourhoods’ initiative.

All in all, the reasons for the Low Emissions Zone are sound – but if it is to fully achieve its purpose of reduced car use, a healthier environment, and the creation of city spaces that are more liveable, it can’t exist in isolation.

It must be part of a joined up and coherent plan.