CONCERN has been raised over Westminster’s handling of the crucial UN climate change summit planned for Glasgow following the shock sacking of the woman in charge.

Former climate minister Claire Perry O’Neill has criticised the UK Government after being removed from her role as “president” of the November event.

Expressing her sadness over losing the job, O’Neill (pictured below) added that Westminster could not cope with the fact that an independent body was managing the conference preparations.

READ MORE: Michelle Ballantyne mocked over claim climate change will 'benefit' Scotland

She went on to point out that No 10 has not held a single climate change meeting since the unit was formed. Sources close to her claim the UK’s preparations are in “disarray”, with cabinet ministers fighting for control over the COP 26 summit and unable to agree on a final budget.

Leader of Glasgow City Council Susan Aitken said the news of O’Neill’s sacking was “very concerning”.

The National:

“Team Glasgow are ready; our COP 26 preparations are moving at pace – @ukgov need to step up and fast,” she tweeted.

The row follows Boris Johnson’s comments that he did not want First Minister Nicola Sturgeon “anywhere near” the event and insisted the Union flag should be prominently displayed.

“I want to see a Union flag – I don’t want to see Nicola Sturgeon anywhere near it, because the Scottish Nationalist Party [sic] didn’t secure that summit in Glasgow, it was the United Kingdom Government,” he said.

Up to 30,000 delegates are expected for the conference which will be the most important on the climate since the Paris Agreement was passed in 2015. Pledges countries made then will be reviewed.

READ MORE: Greta Thunberg speaks out at Switzerland's World Economic Forum

Nations agreed in Paris to a legally binding commitment to keep global temperature rises to no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels but also offered national pledges to cut or curb their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

O’Neill’s role will now be taken over by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the UK Government has confirmed.

A statement from the Cabinet Office said Johnson was “grateful” for the work O’Neill has done.

“Preparations will continue at pace for the summit, and a replacement will be confirmed shortly,” it said. “Going forward, this will be a ministerial role.”

The announcement has come as a shock to environmental and business groups who have been working with O’Neill but it is understood that she had become increasingly fed up by Johnson’s lack of engagement with the event. She has been pushing for an agenda and played a prominent role at the last UN summit in Madrid in December.

She has emphasised the importance of the forthcoming Glasgow event and has said the world has “one shot” to take meaningful action on climate change. If this fails, she said, people would question the whole process.

Mohamed Adow, director of climate and energy think tank, Power Shift Africa, said: “It was always going to be a challenge to have a president who had no formal role in government.

READ MORE: Climate crisis: 'ordinary people can have voices heard'

“For a successful outcome, you want the person presiding over the negotiations to be someone with genuine political power who can fully represent the UK Government and ‘knock heads together’ to ensure real progress is made. With Claire O’Neill not even being an MP, that was always going to be a challenge.”

O’Neill announced her decision to resign as an MP last September, citing the pressures of the COP26 presidency, and stood down in December’s General Election. That left her outside Cabinet discussions.

William Hague, Zac Goldsmith and Michael Howard have all been touted as her possible replacement.

The National:

Johnson is expected to make his first public intervention on the issue on Tuesday, when he will launch the UK’s COP26 strategy, at an event with Sir David Attenborough, teenage climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg the outgoing governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, climate expert Lord Nicholas Stern and the UN’s climate chief, Patricia Espinosa.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government had a constructive relationship with Claire O’Neill and we wish her well. It is important a new COP president is appointed immediately and is able to build the relationships that will be needed within the UK and around the world to deliver a successful outcome from COP26. “The Scottish Government has been working collaboratively with Glasgow, the UK Government and other partners to ensure the conference is a success and we hope that this change in leadership will not disrupt those essential preparations.”