THE COP26 climate change conference is the matter of the moment and the talk of the town (at least among the 25,000 visitors to it). But to my mind there is a basic question about it that still has to be answered and will in fact not be answered during this fortnight of shenanigans.

It is whether all the fuss is genuine, or whether it is another part of the modern world’s obsession of giving its rulers more power than they ought to have. There was democracy in ancient Athens, yet nothing much like UKIP.

I had better explain (though to the politically correct this will scarcely be necessary) that I am a climate sceptic of long standing. The climate fluctuates constantly and we have the word weather to refer concisely to its behaviour. In my own lifetime I have witnessed some of this: cold 1960s, hot 1970s, mild 2000s. None of it remotely approaches what happened to the luckless dinosaurs.

But I also have a column to write every week and about a year ago I decided to do it on the weather, which up to that point would have been beneath my philosophical notice. I think the temperature had risen above 70F in central Scotland, and this rare occurrence, in a slow news week, prompted me to define my attitude to a so far neglected topic – something that can enliven the existence of a columnist hack. So I wrote saying there might be an element of truth about this climate crisis after all.

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I’m not sure how convincing I was because I did not really convince myself when I applied any wider experience to my argument. We can see from some of the lumps of coal that used to be dug up from Scottish pits that the soil in this sector of the globe was once host to tropical plants. By contrast, the oldies among us had grandparents who lived through a Victorian era blasted by freezing winds of hurricane strength that could, for example, sweep a train off a viaduct and drown everybody on board.

Even when the powers of nature are unleashed, the weather pattern that follows is by no means unstable. The River Clyde last froze over in 2010; as it did so, I myself watched the water take on that typically odd, oily look of an ice-sheet in formation from a friend’s flat below the Kingston Bridge.

Yet this sharp cold spell followed a whole decade after the Millennium when central Scotland never had snow to speak of. In fact, I still think our climate ought to be unpredictable enough to make us wary of any forecasts going beyond next week.

Now, once again, after a single inclement spell we cannot stop ourselves expecting the worst and looking forward to ever more wretched conditions as we approach … what? The end of the world? Well, why not? It has got to come sometime, after all. That lovely, balmy summer we had beforehand was just a matter of Mother Nature putting us off our guard.

Today, we have a general atmosphere of doom and gloom fostered by the fact there is a peculiar burst of autumnal tempests that happens to co-incide with COP26. There never has been a warmer effectual invitation to all the world’s doomsters and gloomsters to come and indulge themselves here among us in Scotland and spoil the previous complacency.

Our behaviour has now brought among us those 25,000 experts in one sort of misfortune or another. Like most experts, they are not even interested in hearing evidence contrary to what they want to think. Surely this is why they have arranged for their physical presence in Glasgow to be almost entirely segregated from the local population, who are on the whole too

level-headed to be impressed by a lot of miserable foreigners. It will be possible to believe there are places where the sun never shines, and Glasgow might be one of them.

BETTER for the natives not to set foot in the sullied streets, but to stay at home with innocence uninterrupted. It does not help, perhaps, that the main subject of debate among neighbours in the city is rats and rubbish. Nothing new there, then.

Under the first squalls and floods of a Scottish winter, those who do venture out only to be left waiting for the overdue buses will find it all the harder to conjure up the sufferings of dehydration in faraway places.

Nor are many looks askance being spared on those potential visitors whose imminent presence was announced and fervently wished for, but who have all the same decided in the end not to come.

We need not doubt that the Queen did genuinely wish to visit Glasgow, but obviously thinks it tiresome that responses have fallen below the level of promptness to which, in her long life, she has grown accustomed. Similarly the Pope, while warmly encouraging a theological approach to the climate, prefers to do it from Rome, where indeed he can be sure the weather is better than in Glasgow.

Russian president Vladimir Putin, who seldom sees any need for politeness, will not come. The biggest polluters in the developing world, China and India, will not be there either, as if any hypocritical western power could tell them what to do.

And Scotland is another country that will not be there either, not at least in the form of an official delegation. Nicola Sturgeon officially lacks any form of sovereignty in her position, so is judged by the UK unequal to all who have come better equipped.

We must wait and see if she can find some way of taking revenge on her potential tormentors in Westminster and Whitehall. Experience among other heads of state and government suggests this will not be hard.

As a matter of fact, Nicola seems to me to have one of the more coherent outlooks to be saluted the length of the Clyde in the coming days. She will be saluted along with soul sisters Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, Mette Frederiksen of Denmark, Sanna Marin of Finland and Johanna Sigurdardottir of Iceland.

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They seem to be crystallising a feminist school of political economy which may be developing a bright future, since all other schools of political economy seem to have turned completely useless.

In brief, this school advocates that we should stop counting our money before we go out and spend it, but just go ahead and throw it about till, by experience, we learn the consequences at first hand.

Even though not a sovereign state, Scotland has been to the fore in promoting policy of this kind and might have achieved even more if it did not need its spending plans to be approved by the UK.

In the brave new world opening before us this week in Glasgow, we may glimpse just another of the modern world’s methods of giving its rulers more power than they ought to have.