THIS coming weekend, the crucial COP26 climate change conference gets under way in Glasgow. World leaders and delegates and activists from around the globe will gather in Scotland’s largest city for a summit which makes Glasgow synonymous with efforts to save the planet.

However, despite the fact that this crucial event is taking place in Scotland, Boris Johnson and the Conservative government have gone to considerable lengths to stress it is not being hosted by Scotland. They have been very clear the event is being hosted by the British Government and have tried to minimise and downplay the role of Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government.

Scotland is to be merely the table upon which the banquet of British nationalist self-importance will be served. Holyrood is decidedly not welcome to partake in any of the global influence to be served up.

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In February, Claire O’Neill, the former co-ordinator of the summit, told the BBC she had suggested to Johnson that the Scottish First Minister should have an official role at COP26, only for Johnson to “heartily and saltily” reject the proposal, which is diplomat speak for being told to F-off.

The National: Prime Minister Boris Johnson

In September, it was reported that Downing Street and the Cabinet Office want to sideline the First Minister at the UN climate conference because they are afraid that a significant Scottish presence at a conference being held in Scotland could become “an advert for independence”. Leaked messages from a WhatsApp group for Downing Street advisers suggest strategists are planning to keep Johnson from sharing a platform with Sturgeon in the run-up to and during the event as this could give the world the impression that the Scottish leader is on a par with Johnson and the other leaders of sovereign states who will be in attendance.

The advisers also reportedly suggested that the Union flag should be displayed as much as possible during the conference to underline that it is being hosted by the UK.

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Shortly after he became leader of the Conservative Party in 2019, Johnson conceded he “didn’t mind” seeing “a Saltire or two” at a summit which is being held in Scotland, but that he didn’t want to see Nicola Sturgeon anywhere near it.

It seems Downing Street’s new plan is that during the summit Johnson will meet simultaneously with the leaders of all the devolved governments, which placates his fragile ego by allowing him to pose as the World King receiving the fealty of his subjects, and prevents the Scottish leader enjoying a prominent platform during the conference, reducing Scotland and the Scottish Government to the position of subordinates, while it conveniently allows the Conservatives to claim that the Scottish Government has some involvement in the proceedings.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon

No doubt Michael Gove would describe this attempt to sideline the First Minister and to minimise a meaningful Scottish Government presence as “augmenting” the role of Holyrood at an important international summit and expect us to be grateful.

Yet again we see curiously self-defeating behaviour from the Conservatives when it comes to the defence of a Union which they profess to love. The self-interest of the Tories has already led to them blowing up one of the strongest anti-independence arguments of the Better Together campaign in 2014, Scottish membership of the EU as a part of the UK.

They have since demonstrated that devolution is ineffective at doing what it was originally intended to do – protect Scotland from the policies of a Westminster government Scotland didn’t vote for – and that devolution itself can be undone and hollowed out by an Anglo-British nationalist Westminster Government which is antithetical to even limited Scottish self-government.

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In the woeful and incompetent response of the British Government in the early months of the Covid pandemic yet another key claim of opponents of independence was eviscerated, the assertion that Scotland needs the UK in order to be able to deal with a global crisis.

The criticisms the Scottish Government is now receiving for its handling of the crisis is that it didn’t break earlier and more decisively from the policies of the British Government.

Now in their attempts to prevent any meaningful role for the Scottish Government at a global summit being held in Scotland we see the Conservatives destroying yet another important plank in the anti-independence arguments of 2014, the claim that it is only by being a part of the UK that Scotland can enjoy any global influence.

If the Conservatives were at all wise, they would use COP26 as an opportunity to give the Scottish Government a large and significant role on the global stage. Indeed they should have announced that the conference was being co-hosted by the British and Scottish governments. Then they’d have been able to claim that being a part of the UK was allowing Scotland to – in that favourite phrase of British nationalism – “punch above its weight”. In addition they would be able to assert that the UK really was a union of nations and a partnership.

The National:

COP26 will be held in Glasgow

Instead, in their desperation to demonstrate the supremacy of Westminster and the subordinate position of Holyrood, all they are doing is proving to Scotland that being a part of the UK does not enhance the global influence of Scotland at all – quite the reverse, it erases Scotland and makes it invisible.

Johnson’s attempts to sideline and diminish the role of Scotland at COP26 merely tell us that in the eyes of the British state, Scotland should just shut up and accept its inferior position. Scotland is not to be permitted any influence at a global level just as it is not to be permitted any influence at a UK level.

These are not the actions of a confident and self-assured British state, they are the actions of a Conservative Party which is fearful and insecure and which, even if it won’t admit it openly, has started to realise that by its own arrogance and contempt it has destroyed the thing it claims to love.

COP26 teaches Scotland that this country does not need Westminster in order to stand on a global stage, Westminster gets in our way and with its pretensions and delusions of greatness it diminishes and minimises Scotland.