A ROW has erupted around comments about nationalism and tribalism made by former president Barack Obama in his COP26 address.

Speaking at the UN climate conference on Monday afternoon, Obama said that the world is currently “living in a moment when international cooperation has waned” and that was making it more difficult to tackle climate change.

He said that greater geopolitical tension had come about as a result of the Covid pandemic, but also due to “the rise of nationalism and tribal impulses around the world”.

Unionist politicians leapt on the comment, with the Scottish Tories saying that the SNP should “listen” and put aside plans for “another divisive independence referendum”.

READ MORE: Scots tease Barack Obama for 'Emerald Isle' and Shakespeare gaffes

The Scottish LibDems tweeted that the comments were “bad news for those trying to use #COP26 to push their nationalist ambitions, but even worse news for the planet”.

However, those on the other side of the argument have said that the former US president was referring to movements such as Donald Trump’s (below) America First and Boris Johnson’s Brexit.

The National: CULLMAN, ALABAMA - AUGUST 21: Former U.S. President Donald Trump addresses supporters during a "Save America" rally at York Family Farms on August 21, 2021 in Cullman, Alabama. With the number of coronavirus cases rising rapidly and no more ICU

SNP MP John Nicolson said it was “silly” of Unionists to “misinterpret” Obama’s speech.

He went on: “He was talking about Trumpism and Brexit. He wasn’t talking about successful European liberal democracies like Denmark, Finland, and Scotland.”

National columnist Ruth Wishart wrote: “Barack Obama is just the latest high profile politician to conflate and confuse right wing nationalism with civic, internationalist movements for self-determination. It is down to us to clarify the distinction more effectively.”

Directly after mentioning a “rise in nationalism” Obama also criticised a “lack of leadership on America’s part for four years” which he said has hindered efforts to fight climate change - a clear dig at his successor, Trump.

In 2016, Obama also spoke out against Brexit, saying: “The UK is at its best when it's helping to lead a strong European Union. It leverages UK power to be part of the EU. I don't think the EU moderates British influence in the world, it magnifies it.

"America wants Britain's influence to grow, including within Europe."

READ MORE: COP26 bosses fall for prank jet firm in 'greenwashing' stunt

However, the Brexiteer government led by Boris Johnson, who President Joe Biden previously branded “a physical and emotional clone” of Trump, has placed the UK in danger of a trade war with the EU

Ahead of the 2014 independence referendum, Obama also seemed to speak out in favour of Unionism, saying the US had “a deep interest in making sure that one of the closest allies we will ever have remains a strong, robust, united and effective partner”.

Aberdeen University politics lecturer Dr Malcolm Harvey commented: “Barack Obama was opposed to Scottish independence in the 2014 referendum while he was president, so he probably was talking directly about Scottish nationalism today, especially since he was in Glasgow.

“But he was also likely talking about Brexit as a form of nationalism too…”

He added: “Certain Scottish Tory MSPs might want to wind their necks in with the carping about divisive nationalism. He's implicating them too.”

In his 45-minute COP26 speech, Obama hit out at politicians who “make climate change a partisan issue”.

Making it clear he was attacking those on the right, Obama added: “We don’t just need the Democrats or the Green Party or Progressives to be working together on this existential problem. We need everybody.”

He said that politicians on the right in the US who took climate change seriously were a “rare breed”, and also suggested that private interests were not going to help solve the crisis facing the planet.

Obama said: “International cooperation has always been difficult. It’s made more difficult by all the misinformation and propaganda that can flood out through social media these days.

“Business leaders, let’s face it, are typically rewarded for boosting short term profits, not addressing major social issues. Getting people to work together on a global scale takes time. And right now that’s time we don’t have.”

READ NEXT: Scottish Tories condemned for 'campaign of disinformation' on social media