HUMZA Yousaf has defended Glasow’s controversial Low Emission Zone, telling MSPs that delaying it would have had "dire" consequences for the health of Glaswegians.

The LEZ came into force on Thursday morning, with all cars that fail to meet emissions standards facing a penalty charge. 

According to the council’s website that will likely include any diesel engine vehicles registered before September 2015, and any petrol vehicles registered before 2006.

READ MORE: Homeless Project Scotland facing 'crisis' over Glasgow LEZ

Earlier this month, a charity warned that it may need to stop its vulnerable Scots in the city centre because its one refrigerated van would not comply with the LEZ.

Homeless Project Scotland, which runs a soup kitchen under the Hielanman’s Umbrella at Glasgow Central Station where they regularly feed 300 people, has launched a fundraiser to try and find £15,000 to pay for a new van.

During First Minister’s Questions, Douglas Ross asked the SNP leader if he agreed that “this outstanding charity deserves an exemption from the scheme?”

Mr Yousaf said he understood Glasgow City Council had engaged with charities, including Homeless Project Scotland. 

He claimed Mr Ross was critical of the LEZ “simply because the SNP proposes it.”

The Tory leader hit back: “I oppose it when the SNP make a shambolic mess of every one of these schemes that they bring in. 

“And the First Minister wants to commend Homeless Project Scotland but refuses to stand up and say their one van that helps to feed 300 people every day should get an exemption.

“That is not commending a charity, that is condemning them.”

READ MORE: Glasgow LEZ: New rules on emissions in force from today

Mr Ross then read out a number of business complaints and pointed to a quote from nightclub owner Donald Macleod, who described the scheme as a "low economy zone". 

Mr Yousaf said there has been “considerable lead in time” and “extensive engagement” around Glasgow’s LEZ.

He also said there had been funding for small businesses. 

“When it comes to tackling the climate emergency, something all of us in this chamber claim to have an interest in, claim to say that is a priority really is easy. 

“The warm words are easy, the rhetoric is easy. Taking action is the hard bit and this government will never shy away, nor should our local authorities, from taking the tough action that is required in order to tackle the biggest threat our planet faces.”

Mr Ross claimed the policy was the “latest anti-driver policy” from the government. He said it looked like an “absolute Shambles in the making.”

“Wouldn't it have been better to delay the scheme for the year and properly listen to the concerns of businesses, charities, individuals and organisations who have been raising these concerns, have been hoping for a change, but have been left with no answers, no response and a tone-deaf government who refuse to listen to them?”

The First Minister said had the LEZ been delayed, “more people would have suffered in terms of their asthma, more people would have suffered because of their lung conditions,  more people would have suffered because of CPD, more of the citizens of Glasgow would have suffered dire health consequences because we know air pollution in Glasgow is nowhere near the standards that we want it to be, and the LEZ will help with that. 

“It is an undeniable fact that every time this SNP government brings forward action to tackle the biggest threat our planet faces that Douglas Ross and the Conservatives oppose it time and time and time again.”

READ MORE: OPINION: Glasgow's Low Emissions Zone opposition need to get a grip

During the exchange in First Minister’s Questions, it emerged that Homeless Projects Scotland had been granted an exemption to the LEZ at 9pm last night.

SNP councillor Allan Casey tweeted: "I know that @Douglas4Moray finger isn’t normally on the pulse however he has clearly not done his research today on questioning @HumzaYousaf at #FMQs on the LEZ.

"Homeless Project Scotland have been given a time limited exemption to the LEZ after discussions I had with them."

However, the charity pointed out that they had another three vans that had effectively been put off the road by the LEZ.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) said it was “deeply concerned about the negative impact” of the LEZ on the hospitality sector.

Paul Waterson said Scotland’s largest city already suffers from a “chronic lack of late-night transport provision to ensure safe and reliable transportation home for customers socialising and staff working in the city centre – something the licensed hospitality sector takes very seriously”.

He noted: “There is already a dearth of taxis serving the city centre and if hundreds more taxis are taken off the road, then how do customers and workers get home? Or do they just forget going into the city centre for work or to socialise in the first place which will be another hammer blow to Glasgow’s pubs and bars.

“And let’s not forget that these LEZs will be rolled out to most of Scotland’s other major cities next year.”