A BOLDER vision is required too to crack down on cars to curb pollution and help combat climate change in Scotland's biggest city, with a partial pedestrianisation of George Square just a start.

That's the view of Friends of the Earth Scotland after plans for a partially car-free George Square were unveiled.

The proposal would see two sides of the historic square to be closed off to vehicles for a large chunk of the day.

Proposals for the city centre landmark, which could cost between £8million and £10million, would see the east side of the square, outside the City Chamber and the opposite end at Merchants House made fully pedestrianised.

The longer sides of the square would be for buses, taxis and cycles only between the hours of 7am and 7pm.

The plans emerged after a city-wide consultation - which focused on how people use the square, what they think about it, what it means to the city, and the ambitions people have for it.

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It comes after Glasgow became the first Scottish city to have a low emissions zone, where emissions standards must be met by 20% of buses which pass through the city centre.

All vehicles entering the zone from December 2022 will have to meet the standards.


Glasgow has also set a target of becoming a carbon neutral city by 2030.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s air pollution campaigner Gavin Thomson "warmly welcomed" the part-pedestrianisation plan which would give people priority over vehicles in some areas but said more action is needed with the United Nations climate change summit taking place in Glasgow in November.

"We hope this will be the first of many public spaces in Glasgow where we end the chokehold of cars and instead open our city streets up to walking, cycling to create healthier, safer communities. People in Glasgow need to see bold measures to reduce car traffic around the city and the council must have a stronger role in delivering public transport."

At the weekend the environmental protection group described Scotland's air quality as "shameful" despite an improvement in the country's most polluted street.

Friends of the Earth Scotland said many areas suffered from higher pollution levels in 2019 than in previous years.

But nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels "The UN climate summit coming to Glasgow this November is the perfect opportunity to move from talking about transport solutions to actually implementing them and improving air quality," added Mr Thomson. "The council’s ambitious commitment to net zero emissions by 2030 means that they must urgently put in place measures that will move us away from fossil-fuel vehicles.

"It's the perfect time to be bolder, to create a city centre that puts people first and has a reliable, joined-up public transport network. This is normal across European cities, and is essential if we are to meet climate targets. George Square should be just the start.

"Our unsustainable transport system is damaging our lungs, and worsening the climate emergency. Transport is the largest source of climate emissions in Scotland, with levels remaining pretty much the same for the last 30 years.”

The recent Department for Transport-backed National Travel Attitudes Study found that three in four agreed that "everyone should reduce how much they use their motor vehicles in urban areas like cities or towns, for the sake of public health".

And a similar proportion agreed that "for the sake of the environment, everyone should reduce how much they use their cars". In 2017 63% agreed with the statement.

Mr Thomson said there were difficulties with a full pedestrianisation of George Square.

" A full-pedestrianised George Square had been discussed previously, but this would cause problems for bus routes around the city centre, and taxis picking up and dropping from Queen Street station. These new plans keep access for public transport, but put people first. It will create a healthier, more attractive space for people in Glasgow," he said.

The first changes, if approved, which remove all parking spaces around the square, are planned to be in place by this summer.

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The idea is to make some changes before the European Championship football matches at Hampden in June this year and remove all the parking spaces, currently around three sides of the square, creating more space for people.

The findings from the consultation, which had more than 2000 responses included a reduction in traffic or an element of pedestrianisation, a more sustainable green space and a place to sit or relax.

The final design will need approval of councillors but the preferred option involves temporary features and facilities, with permanent works to be carried out after the summer of 2023, when the square will be used for the UCI Cycling Championships.

The UK won the bid to host the 26th Conference of the Parties, known as COP26, following a partnership with Italy.

Up to 30,000 delegates are expected to attend the event at Glasgow's Scottish Events Campus (SEC) at the end of the year.

It is designed to produce an international response to the climate emergency.