Sturgeon on the world stage? She can’t even fix the problems in her own back yard

IN a matter of weeks, Scotland’s biggest city will be showcased to the world at a United Nations climate change summit.

Doubtless the many thousands of dignitaries will be carefully contained in expensive hotels or within the bounds of conference venues.

Perhaps that’s just as well because Glasgow’s in a state of terminal decline — not that the city’s SNP leaders appear to have noticed, or maybe they don’t care.

Filthy streets, a population of 1.3million rats (outnumbering people), some of which have hospitalised unfortunate binmen, overflowing bins and fly-tipping on a spectacular scale…

There’s little doubt the city council’s decision to charge for the removal of bulk uplift has fuelled the problem of indiscriminate illegal dumping of waste.

Nothing you’d want to include in a glossy brochure, then, and delegates at COP26 are likely to be steered away from the vermin and the piles of mouldering rubbish.

The NHS Louisa Jordan, the makeshift hospital set up in the early stages of lockdown, was decommissioned at a cost of £7million to make way for the summit.

With coronavirus cases sky-high, we’re hosting a potentially super-spreader event which necessitates shutting down a facility that could have been a vital release valve for the under-pressure NHS.

Of course we care about the environment, but look at the condition of our immediate surroundings.

There’s plenty of rhetoric about saving the planet from the same hand-wringers who have presided over this urban catastrophe — who are now in complete denial.

Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken, who prefers to think of her organisation as a City Government, blamed ‘commercial waste’ for the problems — quite a stretch given that a lot of businesses weren’t operating during lockdown.

Meanwhile there’s a burgeoning healthcare emergency to accompany the climate crisis, with the Health Secretary urging people to think twice before trying to summon paramedics.

People are dying as they wait for an ambulance, or dying in them on the way to hospital, and as the Mail’s new campaign highlights many thousands are being denied a face-to-face meeting with their own GP, unless they’re in a very bad way.

But when world leaders arrive it will be a different Scotland that’s presented to them, light years away from the squalor outside the sanctuary of the conference hall — where the streets will be clogged with street-blocking protesters (and rats).

The decision to hold COP26 wasn’t one for the SNP Government, true, though it’s an enthusiastic backer of the event.

Fly-tipping: rubbish under the M8 in Glasgow — as vermin population soars

And you can be sure that behind the scenes Nicola Sturgeon has been wrangling for a higher-profile role, or at least something to do.

In recent weeks, and months, it was impossible to escape her stern visage gazing out from TV screens, providing regular briefings on the Covid surge.

She’s always wanted Scotland to be distinctive — and we’ve achieved it by becoming a coronavirus hotspot, with case numbers rising to dizzying levels.

Now that the health service, or large swathes of it, appear to be imploding, despite the best efforts of burnt-out medics, Miss Sturgeon is nowhere to be seen, and nor are her ministers — giving TV and radio talk shows the widest of berths.

They’re more comfortable with discussing their demands for freedom from the oppressive UK state, though not necessarily with explaining how the brave new socialist society of their dreams would function without plunging us into hyper-austerity.

But the answers are all around us and don’t take much looking for — take a glance at the crumbling infrastructure of modern Scotland and the downward spiral of key public services: just a foretaste of the privations independence would bring.

Some of those dignitaries who do make it to Scotland at the end of October will be familiar with stateswoman Sturgeon, who’s fond of giving interviews with foreign media about her party’s ambitions to form a new state.

How many of them will know or get the chance to find out about her dismal record on what she was elected to do, running the gamut from ferries that don’t sail to a super-hospital which is already at the centre of its own probe.

The official inquiry into that particular scandal began yesterday, focusing on two hospitals including the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow — which Miss Sturgeon said would ‘transform healthcare for patients and provide world-class training for staff’.

And will any of them get to hear about the phalanx of largely unaccountable special advisers and propagandists on the public payroll, or the failing schools, or the bloated quangos, or rising violent and sexual crime?

It’s certainly highly unlikely — and these important visitors will be here to consider loftier issues.

Most of us will recognise the importance of this event, even if the cynical might wonder about the timing — where will Covid cases be by late October and November — and perhaps even whether some of it could have been done by Zoom…

You can’t get in to see your GP — but tens of thousands of politicians, climatologists and their bag-carriers will be able to participate in a mass indoor gathering.

Yet the real opportunity here, at least for those with armies of spin-doctors to advise them on projecting the right image, is global exposure — a chance to grab the headlines.

Miss Sturgeon, like her predecessor, and most politicians, is a bit of a show-off, and COP26 is another staging-post in her ceaseless quest for political relevance.

It’s so much easier to grandstand on a global platform, if she gets the chance, than to admit there are serious problems on her watch, many of them the direct result of her own government’s failure.

Nonetheless, the chances are that COP26 will go ahead, and it’s even possible that an agreement of some kind can be battered out to reduce carbon emissions.

That’s something we should welcome, even if those of us who live in the city might have some concerns about the scope for huge disruption and protests by anarchists — police have warned some of the more radical elements could turn up and use children as human shields…

But it has been a tumultuous 18 months — and the pandemic isn’t over yet.

COP26 provides a chance for the world to reflect on the damage being done to the climate, even if Scotland’s own contribution to that process is necessarily limited.

But for the SNP, at both local and national level, it should also turn the spotlight on its own abysmal record — and the potentially irrevocable harm it has caused over the past 14 years.

  • This column was published on September 21, 2021.
  • Follow me on Twitter: @GrahamGGrant