Glasgow council chiefs had no proper legal justification to allow a “illegal” and “draconian” low emission zone scheme to operate in Scotland’s largest city, a court has heard. 

Advocate Lord Davidson of Glen Clova KC told judge Lady Poole that Glasgow City Council acted unlawfully in allowing the initiative to come into being.

He told the Court of Session on Tuesday that the local authority had failed to follow established legal tests before making its decision to introduce the LEZ, which covers Glasgow City centre.

The second phase of the scheme - which started operating in June 2023 -  aims to improve air quality in Glasgow City Centre by limiting what vehicles can enter the area. 

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Cars, lorries and other forms of transportation which do not meet emission guidelines are not allowed and drivers who break the regulations can be fined.

Lord Davidson said that available data showed that air quality in the city centre had been improving in recent years and that this trend was set to continue. 

He said the information showed that there was no need for an LEZ to be introduced in Glasgow. 

Lord Davidson said that Glasgow City Council’s decision to implement the scheme in the light of this available information was unlawful. 

He added that the court should order a “reduction” of the council’s decision to establish the LEZ and stop it from continuing to operate. 

He said: “The submission is that the Low Emission Zone scheme is illegal as air quality objectives have been met already and they were continuing to be met by the time the Low Emission Zone was brought into operation in the city centre. 

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“To bring the scheme into being was an irrational decision by the council.”

Lord Davidson was speaking on the first day of a judicial review which has been brought to Scotland’s highest civil court by his client, a company called Patons Accident Repair Centre. 

The firm - which is based in the city’s Townhead area, believes the scheme is unlawful. 

The second phase of the LEZ came into force on June  and it banned thousands of vehicles which do not meet emissions requirements from entering Glasgow City Centre.

On Tuesday, Lord Davidson told the court that there were 27 monitoring stations in Glasgow City Centre which monitored levels of Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air - the gas which the local authority hopes to reduce in the air in the city centre.

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Lord Davidson said that 25 out of the 27 stations have recorded “downward trends” of NO2 in recent years. 

He said that the two stations which hadn’t recorded the downward trends were located in Hope Street. 

The advocate said that the information available to the council meant that it shouldn’t have allowed the LEZ to operate in its present form. 

He added: “The council did not display a relevant understanding of the facts when making its decision to implement the scheme. 

“There were no sufficient facts available to the council to demonstrate that the LEZ was meeting objectives. 

“It is unreasonable of the council to have imposed an LEZ of the entire area because of the exceedences in these two areas. 

“The council’s decision was unlawful.”

Lord Davidson also spoke in his submissions of how motorists could be fined hundreds of pounds if they repeatedly breached the LEZ. 

He added: “This is draconian.”

He also said there were other means available to the local authority to improve air quality. 

Lord Davidson added: “There are less intrusive means available.”

Glasgow City Council’s advocate Ruth Crawford KC told Lady Poole that the local authority had acquired evidence about NO2 emissions which gave it a lawful justification to set up a LEZ. 

Ms Crawford said the council had regard to different and more extensive types of data which showed that NO2 emissions were a continuing issue in Glasgow City Centre. 

She said this “modelling” gave the council a lawful basis to set up an LEZ. 

Ms Crawford added: “In my submission that modelling cannot be properly criticised by the petitioner. 

“It cannot be said by any stretch that the decision is irrational.

“Without a Low Emission Zone there would be a continuing problem with exceedences. But with a Low Emission Zone the air quality would be improved.”

The hearing continues on Wednesday when Ms Crawford continues her submissions and the Scottish Government’s lawyer Gerry Moynihan KC is also expected to address the court.