A Glasgow family business has lost its court battle against the city's low emission zone

Lawyers for vehicle repair firm John Paton and Sons Ltd told Scotland's highest civil court that Glasgow City Council's scheme was "illegal" and "draconian" and should be stopped. 

Advocate Lord Davidson told judge Lady Poole the local authority had failed to follow established legal tests before making its decision to introduce the LEZ, which covers Glasgow city centre.

Lord Davidson said available data showed 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 there was no need for an LEZ to be introduced in Glasgow. 

Read more: Glasgow's LEZ was necessary for 'long overdue objective', court hears

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

However, lawyers for the council and Scottish Government told the court the scheme was lawful and introduced with the purpose of improving public health. They urged Lady Poole to reject the challenge. 

In a written judgment published by the court on Tuesday (October 31), Lady Poole upheld the submissions made to her by the local authority and Scottish Ministers. 

She wrote that the local authority had acted in line with information which had provided to them with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. 

She also said the decision to operate was in line with legal requirements to improve air quality and public health. 

Read more: One third of Glasgow City Council vehicles don't comply with LEZ rules

Lady Poole wrote: “The information entitled GCC to conclude the LEZ would contribute towards meeting the air quality objectives."

She said the modelling in the two SEPA reports of 2019 and September 2021 available to Glasgow City Council used models validated against monitoring station readings, and included the results in the tables and figures referred to above. 

Lady Poole said: “These gave a clear basis for Glasgow City Council to reach the conclusion that, without the LEZ scheme, air quality objectives would not be met in a number of city centre locations.

"That was a serious matter, because there were legal obligations to meet NO₂ air quality objectives by 2005, yet information before Glasgow City Council indicated those objectives were still not being achieved many years later.

"It was not a mistake of fact for Glasgow City Council to reach its conclusion merely because other methodologies might be applied by other people to reach a different conclusion. 

Read more: Glasgow Low Emissions Zone explained in five minutes

“The information available to Glasgow City Council gave it a basis reasonably to conclude that if there was a LEZ, NO₂ levels in the city centre would decrease, and air quality standards would both be attained and maintained. 

“The LEZ would contribute to meeting legally required air quality standards. It was lawful, and not irrational, for Glasgow City Council to conclude the low emission zone properly had as an objective that it would contribute to meeting the air quality standards.”

The judicial review was brought to the Court of Session by a firm that operates an accident repair centre in the city’s Townhead district. 

Lawyers for Paton and Sons claimed their client’s human rights had been breached by the introduction of the LEZ.  

Read more: More than 180 a day fined for breaching Glasgow's Low Emission Zone

The court heard this was because the firm would lose business making repairs to vehicles which weren’t compliant with low emission regulations. 

Lady Poole found interference with Paton and Sons’s human rights had taken place. 

But she concluded that, when legal tests were applied to see if the interference with human rights was enough to stop the LEZ from operating, it was clear the scheme was lawful. 

Councillor Angus Millar, city convenor for transport and climate, welcomed the judgement. 

He said: “Today’s decision reflects that Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone is an important public health measure, aimed at bringing down harmful levels of air pollution within the city centre after decades of unacceptable non-compliance with legal standards.

“A strong and substantial body of work underpinned our decision to roll out the LEZ, and we’ve always had the utmost confidence in the lawfulness and proportionality of the scheme given its clear, scientific evidence base.

“Today’s ruling by the Court means we can continue in our commitment to improving air quality to create a safer and more pleasant environment for everyone who lives or spends time in Glasgow city centre."