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JENNY HJUL: COP26 strikes, rats and rubbish – welcome to SNP Scotland

Rubbish on the streets of Glasgow as council leader Susan Aitken and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon prepare for COP26. Photo: Alamy Live News.
Rubbish on the streets of Glasgow as council leader Susan Aitken and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon prepare for COP26. Photo: Alamy Live News.

When it was announced in September 2019 that Glasgow had been chosen to host COP26, the SNP welcomed the opportunity to grandstand on the world stage.

Fast forward two years and that optimism has been replaced by denial as the Nationalists try desperately to cover up the many crises engulfing Scotland’s biggest city.

The fact that a rat has become an unofficial mascot for the event suggests that far from being ready to run a high-profile international gathering, Glasgow is struggling to run itself.

Under an SNP government for the past 14 years and an SNP led council since 2017, the city has been brought to its knees, with essential public services in a state of collapse.

On Monday, Nicola Sturgeon preached to students at the University of Strathclyde about how Scotland would “encourage national governments to match the ambition of cities, regions and state governments”.

Meanwhile, new industrial action on top of strikes by binmen and rail workers in the city, which encompasses her own Glasgow Southside constituency, threatened to disrupt the fortnight-long climate change conference, due to start on Sunday.

Union representatives for the refuse workers have used a giant inflatable rat to highlight council cuts to Glasgow’s cleansing department.

A shift to three-weekly collections and soaring uplift charges have led to rubbish piling up on the streets and employees getting attacked by rodents, with four men having to seek hospital treatment.

City Council leader Susan Aitken dismissed these incidents as ‘very minor contact with a rat’ and common to most cities.

She also managed to blame Margaret Thatcher, dead these last eight years, for Glasgow’s current problems.

COP26 strikes have been brewing for years

She might have shrugged her shoulders and said “that’s life”, as did another well-known Scottish Nationalist, the expat actor Brian Cox, when quizzed about Glasgow’s vermin issues on BBC Question Time last week.

Such cavalier attitudes are an insult to all those who have had to put up with years of incompetence by the SNP and experienced first-hand Glasgow’s decline since its City of Culture heyday in the 1990s.

“You only have to walk through the increasingly hollowed out centre of Glasgow to see that it is lost and falling apart,” wrote the Scottish journalist Iain Martin last week.

Glaswegians may well rise to the occasion next week but it’s a big ask, given the way their city has been treated by local and national government.

Along with the public sector pay disputes, which will paralyse transport networks, many roads will be closed over the next two weeks, some even to pedestrians, and people have been warned of severe congestion.

And patients have been told that face-to-face hospital appointments are being cancelled in a bid to avert the travel mayhem.

Sturgeon hoped – as did much of Scotland – that COP26 would provide a global platform from which to showcase the country and attract badly needed visitors and investment.

But just days before 30,000 people are due to arrive here, the transport chaos, lack of hotel capacity – with thousands of delegates reportedly still unable to find accommodation – disgruntled workforce, and filthy streets, not to mention the rats, are testament to SNP misrule.

Green goals missed and messages questionable

Even Sturgeon’s green credentials are in tatters on the eve of the global eco extravaganza.

Far from leading the world into the green revolution, Scotland missed its last three annual climate targets, she admitted this week.

And the Greens she brought into her government to try to boost the SNP’s mandate for independence have contributed nothing but embarrassment so far.

Junior minister Lorna Slater, responsible for biodiversity and the circular economy, made the ludicrous claim last week that taking drugs was not inherently dangerous, overlooking the 1,339 fatalities last year that have turned Scotland into the drugs death capital of Europe.

Sturgeon said that, as the venue for COP26, Scotland will “create spaces and dialogues which encourage empathy, promote understanding and help people share perspectives”.

But she has not encouraged much empathy or promoted any understanding with her fellow Scots, some 200,000 of whom are now poised to go on strike in local authorities across the country as preparations for the Glasgow summit continue.

The First Minister likes to paint herself as an international statesman but while focusing on lofty matters beyond her control, the constitution included, she has failed to attend to her duties in government.

One of the ways Scotland will help make COP26 a success, she said, was by “acting as a bridge”.

But as things stand, with Scotrail staff due to walk out next week, she cannot even connect Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Nicola Sturgeon and Susan Aitken may try to downplay the strikes and rubbish and rats ahead of COP26 but they are a grim metaphor for years of SNP neglect.

It is not a good look for Scotland as the world descends on Glasgow.

JENNY HJUL: Politicians like Joanna Cherry need protection too

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