A first aid charity that deals with medical and welfare emergencies on the streets of Glasgow say nearly 500 patients were affected after it was effectively blocked from using its ambulance for over a month because the city council refused a waiver to operate in the city's Low Emission Zone (LEZ).

Glasgow Street Aid volunteers, who handle assault injuries, medical emergencies, such as heart attacks and drug overdoses, and minor injuries, were forced to take the ambulance off the road and raise funds for a new one in the wake of the enforcement of the rules coming in from the start of June.

They say nearly 500 patients who would normally be dealt with by the ambulance were affected by the block.

They say that while the ban was in place, they were unable to complete seven hospital transfers using the ambulance because of LEZ rules. Some 474 patients, who would normally have been treated in the clinical surroundings of the ambulance, were forced to be treated where they were found - which was mainly on the street.

The ambulance was off the road between June 8 and July 6 before the council agreed a temporary waiver.

But the charity, which patrols the city centre to help people in need of medical attention, offering vital services like ambulance transportation and on scene aid, now has to find £20,000 to replace the ambulance.

READ MORE: Ministers face court action over motorist fines over Scots LEZs

And special projects manager Alison Hepburn warned that the financial burden would "absolutely effect the future of the charity".

The Herald:

The charity said that "despite extensive appeals" the council initially refused the waiver for their eight-year-old Fiat Decato ambulance. It was eventually approved to allow Glasgow Street Aid to work at the TRNSMT Festival on Glasgow Green.

Glasgow City Council, which eventually sanctioned a waiver, said that that the ambulance met the criteria for an exemption which can only be made in "exceptional circumstances". The charity say the temporary LEZ waiver is only in place until they get a new ambulance and is subject to a monthly review and lasts 12 months.

The council and the Scottish Government are facing a court challenge to stop motorists being fined for entering Scotland's major centres through Low Emission Zones following concerns the penalties are unfair.

When the first low-emission zone in Scotland was introduced in Glasgow from December 31, 2018, it was directed at buses.

Phase Two, which was directed at cars, came into effect in December 2022 while the scheme was enforced through fines by Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) from the start of June, this year.

The escalating fines start at £60 if vehicles enter the area and do not meet emission standards. Petrol cars produced from 2006 and diesel cars registered after September 2015 are generally compliant. A second offence would see a penalty of £120 applied, a third £240. The fourth maximum fine is £480.

The council says restrictions are only aimed at a minority of older vehicles which are the most polluting - with up to 90% of cars thought to already meet the requirements.

The Herald:

John Barclay, head of service for Glasgow Street Aid said: "We estimate some seven individuals would have been taken by the charity to hospital during the time we were off the road.

"The wider issue is that in the timeframe we were off we saw a lot more patients and the ambulance is used to provide a clean, clinical environment in the city. It is used for dignity and respect. That is the biggest part, so people aren't prying, taking videos and pictures and listening into consultations.

"It is a mobile treatment centre for us. The patients would normally be brought to the ambulance to have their wounds cleaned and to be assessed."

The charity has launched an online fundraising campaign with the aim of raising £20,000 for a new, LEZ compliant ambulance. The Robertson Trust, which supports people and organisations in Scotland who work to alleviate poverty and trauma, has already donated £10,000.

"I would say trying to get that money is a tall order," continued Ms Hepburn. "As you can imagine we are against the clock in the process of redirecting and building funds to purchase not just a new ambulance but keep the charity running. It is a massive amount of money for us.

READ MORE: Only one in four in Glasgow back LEZ as hotspot pollution rises

"We have to divert funds and we have to find another £10,000. It absolutely affects the future of the charity.

"The ambulance we are looking at is on hold and is having to be loaned out. We might lose it."

In response, a Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said: “This vehicle has been exempted from LEZ requirements until next June, so it can continue to be brought into the city centre.

“Poor air quality presents a serious risk to public health and so the LEZ is an essential measure if Glasgow is to tackle the harmful air pollution that has blighted parts of the city centre for decades.

“To maximise the effectiveness of Glasgow’s LEZ in bringing down levels of harmful air pollution, it is essential that compliance rates are as high as possible. This means that exemptions will only be considered in exceptional circumstances, and where they meet the criteria for exemption as was the case here.”

Anti-LEZ campaigers have been given the go-ahead for a judicial review over the first scheme being brought in Glasgow by the city council after a judge confirmed that it complied with the "real prospect of success" test set down in law.