A TORY MP interrupted a tourism expert giving evidence about COP26 planning to the Scottish Affairs Committee to ask about Union flags yesterday.

Alberto Costa, who grew up in Bishopbriggs but now represents the South Leicestershire constituency at Westminster, wanted to know if Visit Scotland would work with Visit Britain to use the Union flag on marketing materials ahead of the major climate conference.

The UN COP26 summit will be held in Glasgow in November and will see world leaders gather to discuss the climate crisis. The landmark event is believed to be the most important climate summit since the COP21 in 2015, where the Paris Agreement was signed.

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The Scottish Affairs Committee yesterday spoke with key figures in planning ahead of the huge event, including Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins, Glasgow City Council’s head of communication and strategic partnerships, and Visit Scotland’s government and parliamentary affairs manager, Leon Thompson.

Thompson was explaining how the event is being looked at from a tourism perspective. He was asked how his organisation is working with Visit Britain in the run-up to the major conference.

He explained the two organisations work “very closely” together, with a focus on sharing intelligence and consumer insight on responsible tourism.

He told the committee: “I’d say we’re working very closely with Visit Britain around this, we continue to look at potential opportunities with Visit Britain as we get clarity on how the event will actually run. And we’re kind of looking at joint marketing, promotional activity as well, where we can. Visit Scotland is also – oh sorry.”

Thompson was interrupted by the Tory MP: “The joint marketing opportunities – will that be carrying for example flags like the Saltire and the Union flag. Can you envisage Visit Scotland working with Visit Britain in joint promotional material that carries both flags?”

“Well we tend not to carry flags on our promotional material anyway,” the Visit Scotland representative told Costa. “We have a brand called Scotland Is Now which we’re part of. And working with Visit Britain, the relationship there is very much about sort of using the Britain dimension when we’re engaging with emerging markets. Markets that are not so familiar with the UK and Scotland. But where there are markets that understand Scotland very well then we obviously promote Scotland and the great things we have here.”

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Following the meeting, committee member and SNP MP Deidre Brock expressed her disappointment with Costa’s questioning.

“The committee were given the opportunity to question folk at the heart of planning the largest, most important conference ever held in Scotland and the UK, a conference we all desperately hope will provide real solutions for the global climate crisis,” she said. “It says it all about Tory priorities when the bigger issue seemed to be how to increase the Union flag count.”

During the meeting Costa was keen to stress that the COP26 event is taking place in the UK.

He asked the Assistant Chief Constable (below): “Mr Higgins you mentioned that this is one of the biggest policing challenges in this visit to the UK. You were the first to mention the United Kingdom. Are you working with your sister police forces across the whole of the United Kingdom given that the United Kingdom is hosting this event in Glasgow?”

The National:

Higgins told him “absolutely, yes” before explaining in detail how forces around the UK are working together ahead of the summit.

The senior police chief also told the MPs that the conference is likely to be the largest policing operation since the 2012 London Olympics.

Higgins said if Joe Biden and Pope Francis attend, this could also escalate the event significantly.

He told the committee that Police Scotland will facilitate peaceful protests to the best of their ability, but “riotous” behaviour would not be tolerated.