It was simply funny when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer seemed to confuse Edinburgh and Glasgow on Twitter this week, leading to jokes he had accidentally turned up in the wrong Scottish city. But those closer to home have no excuse for letting disdain slip.
The Guardian kicked things off on Monday with a live blog contribution from environment correspondent Fiona Harvey. Referring to the huge queues for delegates, she commented: “It is inexplicable that the Scottish hosts have not managed this better having had nearly two years to prepare. They knew 30,000 people would come.”
Whoops – “Scottish” was edited out of the sentence within the hour, partially, I imagine, because COP26 is, as we all well know, a UK government-organised event in which Scottish input has been deliberately sidelined through actions like Boris Johnson’s petulant opposition to extending an invitation to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and partially deleted, I hope, because it was so bloody rude.
As Andy Murray might put it, we’re British when we’re winning and Scottish when we’re losing.
I also have a bone to pick with protesters who’ve made a right song and dance about their pilgrimage north. Yes, we get the joke, they’ve cycled 500 miles. Nice that they’ve raised a bit of money and had a fun time of it. Good for them.
But can those for whom the concept of ‘north’ reaches barely beyond Newcastle stop acting like Glasgow is the great beyond? They know where we are on the map. It’s neither a massive pilgrimage nor an expedition to the Arctic Circle. Some of us manage to travel between Glasgow and London frequently for work without giving away our earthly belongings and updating our will in preparation.
This week I received a press release from some PR firm punting a youth-focused fringe event that contained snaps of rubbish floating in the Clyde. It was framed as ‘poignant’, a clash between eco intentions and the grim reality of the industrialised world.
But – local bin collection frustrations aside – have these people never been to a city before? Glasgow, like anywhere else, isn’t perfect. But it’s a real place, not just a convenient backdrop. Hamming up its problems in an attempt at political point-scoring is an insult to those of us who actually live here.
COP26 is making incredibly clear that an internationalist approach is essential if the climate crisis is to be tackled. It’s deeply embarrassing that the UK, having recently gone through the ghastly, Europe-spiting, isolationist Brexit campaign, is now represented by Boris Johnson, a man who appears on the world stage as disinterested and insincere.
Scots already know how Westminster jeers at devolved powers: supercilious unionists take an attitude that is half-possessive, half-dismissive.
Only the pressure of the world’s eyes watching will make the old colonial power that is Britain, which barely takes an interest in anywhere within that isn’t London, take an interest in the fate of the rest of the world.