IN the closing stages of COP26, it was Nicola Sturgeon leading calls for Boris Johnson to step up and return to Glasgow to drive the deal over the line.

The Prime Minister’s last ­appearance at the global gathering on Wednesday included being booed at a railway station and forced to defend the Tories against sleaze allegations in a hastily ended press conference.

It’s a far cry from when Johnson told a party conference in 2019 he did not want Scotland’s First ­Minister “anywhere near” the summit.

Sturgeon has been pictured with prominent politicians and ­activists the past two weeks, from US ­president Joe Biden and Germany’s Angela Merkel to Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough.

The National:

Nicola Sturgeon speaking with Canadian premier Justin Trudeau during COP26

Despite not having a seat at the COP negotiating table, there’s been also announcements from the ­Scottish Government such as funding for climate loss and damage.

The contrast between the leaders has not gone unnoticed by international media covering the conference.

Ika Ferrer Gotic, a senior news ­producer and anchor with N1 CNN news channel in Bosnia and ­Herzegovina, said it was impossible to ­overstate how important the ­summit was for Johnson’s image ­internationally.

She said: “He claimed that ­Brexit was an opportunity for his country to become a more active member of the global community. He also said his government was ­committing to reducing its reliance on coal, despite the prospect of a ­controversial new mine opening in North West England.

“Boris Johnson has earned a lot of criticism during COP26, firstly, ­leaving the climate summit in a ­private jet, then not wearing a mask midst of a global pandemic.”

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Gotic said Sturgeon had shown “real leadership” during COP26.

She added: “I had the opportunity to meet the First Minister during a school visit in Glasgow and speak to her about Scotland leading the way of climate recovery.

“My objective observation tells me she is indeed a strong woman with clear agenda.

“Nicola Sturgeon enjoys a ­positive international image of a woman ­leader who addresses all issues but also takes responsibility in case of government failures.”

However Sturgeon has faced ­criticism over her appearances at COP26, including that she ­“abandoned” Holyrood. She responded by saying she had an important role to play in making the most of “the opportunity to showcase Scotland”.

Anthony Salamone, managing ­director of political analysis firm ­European Merchants, said she ­appeared to have clear objectives for the conference.

He said: “One was to demonstrate that Scotland is progressive and ambitious on climate change, I think that objective is mainly geared towards the global audience.

“Then a more domestic ­objective which is to demonstrate that ­Scotland could be successful as an ­independent state.

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“This is not by talking about ­independence, but just by ­demonstrating through being at COP and speaking with world leaders and attending events and so on.”

He said while the level of ambition of the Scottish Government may be recognised globally, it also reflected the “structural weakness” of the fact Scotland is not independent or part of the EU and can therefore only have a limited role.

“In respect of the domestic ­objective, of demonstrating Scotland could be successful in the world, I think the verdict on that aligns very much with our existing independence debate,” he said. “People who already support the SNP and independence would have been pleased with the work of the Scottish Government at COP26 and those who oppose the SNP and independence will not.

“We exist in a very polarised post-Brexit environment where the ­Scottish Government’s European and international engagement is filtered through the lens of the independence debate, even when it shouldn’t be so.

“It is perfectly right for the ­Scottish Government to engage in what’s ­happening in the world, that makes sense regardless of the independence debate.”

Meanwhile campaigners who want to see more women included in ­leadership roles in climate ­negotiations argued Sturgeon should have been given an even greater role.

Bianca Pitt, co-founder of SHE Changes Climate, said: “I was ­totally disappointed that she wasn’t brought on for the negotiations. Why would we not use such a high-profile ­woman, such a strong leader?”

Pitt said that only two of the 12 directors in the UK COP team were women – despite the UK signing up to a UN pledge for equal ­representation.

She added: “It is the same old ­repetition that women are the ­assistants and then men take the decisions. And look at the results – COPs that fail women, fail.”