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Scottish First Minister will ‘explore and examine’ what can be done to help Glasgow taxi drivers

The Scottish First Minister will ‘explore and examine’ what more can be done to help Glasgow taxi drivers on a national level as drivers struggle to meet vehicle emissions standards forced upon them.

Pauline McNeill, a Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) representing Glasgow, has called on the Scottish First Minister, Humza Yousaf, to address the pressing issues facing the taxi trade in the city. Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, McNeill highlighted the critical role of taxis in reviving Glasgow's night-time economy, particularly in the wake of the pandemic.

McNeill emphasised the challenges faced by taxi drivers in complying with the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) regulations, further exacerbated by the limited options for garages that can help them meet these requirements. She revealed that the waiting lists for the only garage that offers assistance stretch as far as 2026, in contrast to the one-year deadline for compliance.

Suggesting a potential solution, McNeill proposed the implementation of a national grant scheme that could aid taxi operators across Scotland facing similar challenges. She stressed the urgency of supporting the taxi industry, not only to comply with LEZ regulations but also as an essential driver of Glasgow's post-pandemic recovery.

Responding to McNeill's concerns, First Minister Humza Yousaf acknowledged the significance of the issue and the pivotal role played by taxis in the city's night-time economy. He clarified that purchasing new or electric taxis is not the only path to LEZ compliance, as retrofitting older taxis could also be a viable option. However, Yousaf recognised that if access to retrofitting services is limited to a single garage with extensive waiting lists, additional support could be necessary.

The Labour MSP's call for action echoes the sentiment among taxi drivers in Glasgow, who require swift and concrete measures to ensure their ability to meet LEZ requirements without undue burdens.

McNeill MP addressed the Scottish First Minister: “The city of Glasgow, as the most locked-down city in the United Kingdom, desperately needs people to return to the night-time economy. Taxis are key to ensuring that people have confidence that they will be able to get home, but taxi drivers have had to fight for every concession to help them to comply with the LEZ.

“Taxi drivers tell me that there is only one garage that will help them to comply and the waiting list goes as far as 2026, but they have only a year to comply.

“Given that, as the First Minister said, other cities will face the same challenges, will he look into having a national grant scheme?

What else can be done to help the taxi trade to comply? Given that Scotland’s largest city needs to come out of the pandemic and recover, it is very important to deal with this.”

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf replied: “This is, of course, an important issue. We all value the night-time economy and the important role that taxi drivers play in it.

“It is important to note that it is not necessary to purchase a new taxi or an electric taxi to be LEZ compliant. For taxi operators who wish to change their vehicle, some older taxis might be suitable for retrofitting. However, I take Pauline McNeill’s point. If, as she said, there is only one garage that can help and it has extremely long waiting lists, I will ensure that we liaise with Glasgow City Council to see what support we can provide.

“It should be said that the LEZ support fund has provided grant funding for taxi retrofits since 2019. Since it opened, more than 300 taxis have taken up funding for retrofitting. A fund is therefore available, but I take the points that Pauline McNeill has raised very seriously, and we will explore and examine with our partners in Glasgow City Council whether there is more that we can do.”

TaxiPoint reported last month how taxi drivers in Glasgow are grappling with fresh job concerns as funds for retrofitting their vehicles to comply with Low Emission Zone (LEZ) criteria have now run dry. The situation has left drivers who are currently non-compliant with limited options as they face impending deadlines.

The LEZ Retrofit programme, administered by Transport Scotland and executed by the Energy Saving Trust, has experienced an overwhelming demand for its services, causing the allocated funds for this financial year to rapidly deplete. The scheme, which aims to support eligible micro businesses, including taxi drivers, in retrofitting their existing non-compliant vehicles, plays a crucial role in ensuring the minimum emission standards set by the Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Dundee low emission zones are met.

In October a Glasgow City Council spokeswoman told TaxiPoint: “Glasgow’s LEZ is a crucial public health measure that aims to tackle the harmful air pollution that has blighted the city centre for decades - creating and exacerbating people's health conditions and the city's health inequalities, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable.

“Plans to extend a LEZ to all vehicle types was democratically agreed in 2018 and since then the council has undertaken an extensive programme of communications and engagement to raise awareness of the scheme, its timescale for introduction and the availability of funding to ease compliance.

“The LEZ retrofit fund has been available to eligible taxi operators since 2019. In the same year we amended licensing conditions to allow for a new license or change of vehicle to be applied to taxis more than five years old. This was a direct intervention ahead of the LEZ coming into force to increase the options available to operators of vehicles unsuitable by reason of age for retrofit.”


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