Analysis: Why are Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer in Scotland this week?

Following hot on the heels of a visit by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week, the next two days will see both the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, campaigning in Scotland.

Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer are both in Scotland today and tomorrow.
Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer are both in Scotland today and tomorrow.

The reason? COP26.

The UK will host the global UN climate summit in Glasgow this November, with countries due to set out plans for drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, and it appears to be focusing the minds of politicians across the spectrum on the impact of climate change both at home and away.

While Mr Sunak was ostensibly in Scotland to talk about how many Scots jobs were saved as a result of the Covid furlough scheme, he also squeezed in a visit to the ORE Catapult Turbine in Levenmouth, part of Scotland’s innovative green energy sector, which is expected to help reach the UK net zero targets by 2050.

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And now, ahead of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change due to be published on August 9 and predicted to deliver a stark warning that the world is heading for widespread devastation unless emissions are brought down sharply in the next decade, the Prime Minister and Sir Keir are also in Scotland.

Boris Johnson is expected talk about security for the event as well as attempting to spread the word about the UK government’s investment plans for green jobs and reaching net zero by 2050.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross is expected to accompany him on part of his trip, which will most definitely not see him visit Bute House despite an invitation by Nicola Sturgeon. Mr Johnson politely declined on Tuesday, saying he believed he should meet with the leaders of devolved parliaments together when discussing the pandemic response.

Of course his visit will also underline a desire to remind the Scottish Government that COP26 is a UK government event – the two administrations clashed earlier this year over preparations which had them at loggerheads over the booking of key venues.

Sir Keir meanwhile, is expected to visit a wind farm – a site preferred by politicians looking to polish their green credentials in a photo op – and meet with members of a youth forum along with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, to discuss young people’s perspectives on the climate crisis and Labour’s plans for green investment.

Despite the flurry of apparent activity both the UK and Scottish governments have missed their climate targets. UK ministers have also scrapped measures to reduce emissions such as the green homes grant insulation scheme and approved a new coalmine in Cumbria.

In Scotland, despite a deal in the works between the SNP and Scottish Greens, the latter has criticised the Scottish Government’s stance on oil and gas extraction in the North Sea, while recent ONS statistics revealed that direct employment from green jobs in Scotland is at its lowest since 2014.

COP26 is edging closer, and it’s safe to say that as the deadline draws nearer, visits such as those by Mr Johnson and Sir Keir this week are likely to happen with greater frequency while the green rhetoric is ramped up.

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