A LEADING public health expert has said “it would be unwise” for an international conference on climate change to take place in Scotland later this year.

Professor Linda Bauld made clear her view after national clinical director Jason Leitch earlier this week cautioned against overseas travel for the duration of the year.

He warned that people could travel to a country where vaccination programmes were not advanced and risk importing the virus back to Scotland.

The United Nations’ COP26 event, being hosted by the UK Government, was due to take place last November but was postponed to November this year because of the pandemic. It is scheduled to happen in Glasgow.

At the time of the postponement it was thought the crisis would be resolved within 12 months. However, with more infectious strains of the virus emerging, health experts fear the pandemic may last longer.

Asked for her views on whether COP26 should be postponed or whether moves made to severely limit the numbers attending, Bauld said she thought delivering the conference “unwise”.

“To deliver a large conference at a time when it is possible that people in Scotland may still be living with travel restrictions seems to me to be unwise,” she told The National. “Even if travel has opened up more, quarantine policies will need to be followed including self-isolation for a period even if testing for travellers is more developed than is currently the case.

“If delegates don’t factor that into their visit and if facilities are not provided then there is a real risk of importing cases which could undermine progress we will have hopefully made by then in addressing the pandemic in Scotland.”

At the Scottish Government’s daily briefing, the First Minister yesterday said there was no guarantee life will be “back to normal” by the summer.

Nicola Sturgeon said some restrictions will have to remain in place even if the vaccination programme is able to suppress transmission rates, and that is a consideration which makes it impossible to say when large events will be permitted.

The Glastonbury Festival has this week been cancelled for a second year, but organisers of the TRNSMT festival – due to take place in Glasgow Green in July – still hope it can go ahead if restrictions are lifted in time.

At the briefing, Sturgeon said she has “huge sympathy” for organisations debating whether they can hold events in the summer.

Referring to the vaccination programme, she added: “We are still very much in the grip of a global pandemic and none of these things ... are going to necessarily create a completely back-to-normal environment in any walk of life. So I think organisations have to be aware of that.”

A UK Government spokesman said: “We are closely monitoring the Covid situation in the run-up to the event. The COP26 team is working hard on exploring all the options around holding a successful, inclusive summit which is held safely.”