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Fall in Glasgow taxi numbers due to demand for service not Low Emission Zone says MSP

Updated: May 13



In recent parliamentary discussions, significant concerns have been raised about the impact of Glasgow's low-emission zone (LEZ) on the city's taxi industry.


Annie Wells, Conservative MSP, queried the Scottish Government on assessments made regarding the reduction in taxi numbers due to the LEZ implemented in June 2023.

Fiona Hyslop, representing the Scottish National Party, responded with statistics showing a slight decrease in the number of licensed taxis — from 1,390 in May 2023 to 1,347 by January 2024. She stated that the “reduction can be attributed to declining public demand for taxis rather than being a direct result of the low-emission zone”, pointing out that Glasgow City Council has granted the taxi fleet a 12-month exemption from LEZ penalties, which will last until June 2024. The council has even proposed extending this exemption for certain taxis if operators show intent to retrofit their vehicles or purchase new ones that comply with LEZ standards.


Wells expressed deep concern over the hundreds of black taxis still non-compliant with the LEZ regulations, stressing that these taxis risk closure when the current exemption ends. She referenced a statement from Brian O’Hara of the Glasgow Taxi Trade Credit Union, who in February highlighted the potential for 400 small businesses to be forced out of business due to the lack of exemptions for certain taxis. Wells pushed for an extension of the exemption, particularly for those taxis outside the 76 already compliant vehicles.


Hyslop reiterated the council's proactive measures, emphasizing that further exemptions could be granted if taxi operators demonstrate a plan for retrofitting. She noted Glasgow's unique situation with no age limit on taxis, leading to a higher proportion of older, non-compliant vehicles compared to other major Scottish cities. Hyslop also reminded that the LEZ retrofit fund, offering up to £10,000 for retrofitting a taxi, is currently open for applications.

Labour MSP Paul Sweeny then brought attention to the economic pressures facing taxi operators, particularly the steep costs of making taxis compliant — estimated between £60,000 and £100,000 for a new taxi. He argued that the £10,000 grant is insufficient for many drivers, especially those nearing retirement or in their 50s, who are hesitant to undertake significant financial commitments. Sweeny called for a review of the financial support mechanisms available to help taxi operators either scrap or retrofit their vehicles.


Responding to these financial concerns, Hyslop acknowledged the significant challenges and pointed to ongoing discussions with the four LEZ local authorities, including Glasgow. She highlighted that while plans have been in place for some time, the specific issues in Glasgow due to the lack of licensing rules require special attention. She confirmed that further extensions of exemptions and additional financial support discussions are underway with Glasgow City Council to better understand and address taxi operators' needs.


This ongoing dialogue at Parliamentary level reveals the complex balance between environmental goals and economic realities. As Glasgow navigates these challenges, the effectiveness of the council's strategies, including potential extensions of exemptions and enhanced financial assistance, will be again questioned when it comes to securing the future of the city's taxi fleet.

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