CAMPAIGNERS against potentially deadly air pollution have hailed a landmark legal victory which will force cities including Glasgow to clean up their act.

The UK Government has been ordered to take "immediate action" over illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide in 16 cities, with Glasgow named among those in breach of EU limits.

In a unanimous ruling, five Supreme Court justices ordered the Government to produce new air quality plans "no later than December 31 2015".

Announcing the decision on Wednesday, Lord Carnwath said: "The new government, whatever its political complexion, should be left in no doubt as to the need for immediate action to address this issue."

The outcome marks the end of a five-year legal battle brought by campaign group ClientEarth, and also has implications for the Scottish Government who are responsible for enforcing EU air quality targets in Scotland.

Air pollution has been linked to coronary artery disease, heart attacks and strokes, and has been blamed for causing more than 300 deaths per year in the city.

Average levels of nitrogen dioxide in the Glasgow Urban Area this year will be 74 micrograms per cubic metre at the most polluted spots. The legal limit is 40 micrograms.

Emissions from diesel vehicles are a major source of the gas, which is particularly harmful to people with asthma or existing lung problems.

Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland said: "This is a huge victory in the fight for clean air. Wednesday's ruling marks the climax in a five-year legal battle where the UK and Scottish Governments have been shamefully caught trying to shirk their responsibilities. Their lack of action to tackle air pollution has cost thousands of lives.

Ms Hanna added that the Scottish Government must "heed the ruling" and ensure that its own Low Emission Strategy, currently under consultation, sets out how it will bring Glasgow into line with EU law.

ClientEarth said the "historic" ruling would force the Government to tackle the worst polluting diesel vehicles, and urged the creation of a national network of low-emission zones.

ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews said: ""This ruling will benefit everyone's health but particularly children, older people and those with existing health conditions like asthma and heart and lung disease.

"The next government, regardless of the political party or parties which take power, is now legally bound to take urgent action on this public health crisis."

Claire Francis, head of policy for sustainable transport charity, Sustrans, said: "That won't just mean fewer deaths from pollution - it will also tackle obesity and other diseases, climate emissions and congestion, benefitting our health and economy."

Emissions data shows that nitrogen dioxide levels in Scotland fell by 65 per cent between 1990 and 2012.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it would study the Supreme Court judgement to understand its implications for Scotland.

He added: "Although there has been very good progress, we recognise that there is more to be done to deliver further health and environmental benefits where areas of poorer air quality remain."

Councillor Alistair Watson, Executive Member for Sustainability at Glasgow City Council said the ruling acknowledged that central government was the "big policy driver" behind emissions, and called for a shake-up of the bus industry.

He said: "We know that the main source of air pollution produced within the city is from road traffic and one of the biggest culprits is buses. Therefore an action we would like to explore with the Scottish Government is re-regulating buses as without this our ability to make any real improvement is hampered."