COP26: Majority of Scots believe strikes would 'embarrass' Nicola Sturgeon

Two-thirds of Scots believe strikes during COP26 will be “embarrassing” for Nicola Sturgeon, as pressure mounts over planned industrial action during the global climate change conference.

The polling comes after the First Minister was challenged by Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar to meet with cleansing workers in Glasgow who are threatening to strike during COP26 – an invitation she declined amid accusations the Scottish Labour leader was “talking down” Glasgow.

Refuse workers and other council workers such as school caterers, cleaners and janitors are set to strike between November 8 and 12 during the two-week conference, which will begin on Monday.

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COP26 ScotRail strikes averted after pay deal struck with RMT
Strike action during COP26 would be most "embarrassing" for Nicola Sturgeon, a new poll has found. Picture: PAStrike action during COP26 would be most "embarrassing" for Nicola Sturgeon, a new poll has found. Picture: PA
Strike action during COP26 would be most "embarrassing" for Nicola Sturgeon, a new poll has found. Picture: PA

The poll by Savanta ComRes for The Scotsman asked Scots for their opinions around the refuse and since-averted threat of rail strikes, with 1,005 adults aged 16 and over surveyed between October 22 and 28.

The survey also shows support for independence continues to be static after the May election, with little change in public opinion of each of Scotland’s major parties.

Support for independence is unchanged since the last poll in this series in early September, with 45 per cent of Scots backing Yes, 48 per cent backing No, and 7 per cent stating they do not know.

With don’t knows excluded, support for independence is unchanged at 48 per cent, with support for the union on 52 per cent.

The same split is shown when Scots are asked if they want to see a second independence referendum, regardless of timing, with 45 per cent saying there should be a second vote, while 47 per cent oppose indyref2 and 9 per cent state they don’t know.

However, with world leaders set to descend on Glasgow from Monday as part of the COP26 summit, Scots believe it will be more embarrassing for Ms Sturgeon if strikes do go ahead during the conference.

This poll asked respondents whether they would back rail and refuse worker strikes during COP26, with 38 per cent of Scots backing the action and 35 per cent opposing the move.

The survey was conducted prior to the news of a deal on Wednesday night between RMT and ScotRail, which averted the threat of widespread strike action on the railways during COP26.

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In total, 65 per cent of Scots believe it will be embarrassing, with 36 per cent stating it will be “highly embarrassing” and 28 per cent saying it will “somewhat embarrassing” for the First Minister.

This is in contrast to the figures for Boris Johnson, for whom just over half of Scots believe strikes would be embarrassing, with just 28 per cent stating it will be “highly embarrassing”.

Industrial action would also be embarrassing for Glasgow, Scots say, with 62 per cent stating it will be either highly or somewhat embarrassing for the city.

Glaswegians are most likely to say strikes will be embarrassing for their city, with 68 per cent of the city’s population stating it will embarrassing.

However, the threat of strike will embarrass the entire United Kingdom, Scots say, with 56 per cent stating industrial action would be embarrassing for the country, with 62 per cent stating it would be embarrassing for Scotland specifically.

During First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon declined an invitation to meet with cleansing workers in Glasgow and was challenged on the city’s cleanliness.

After the SNP leader accused Mr Sarwar of “talking down” Glasgow, Scottish Labour’s Pam Duncan-Glancy, who lives in the city, told MSPs of her experience with rodents and pleaded with the First Minister to reconsider.

She said: “As my representative, as my MSP, I ask the First Minister again – please meet with cleansing workers tomorrow and hear from them first hand what is happening.

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“I can assure you there are rats in our streets and there are rats in my flat.”

Ms Sturgeon told her: “As a resident of and a representative of the city of Glasgow, I don’t shy away from the challenges that the city faces.

“But I do think some of the language that Labour is using about Glasgow, some of the ways in which Labour is seeking to characterise the city of Glasgow, is doing a disservice to the city and to people who live there.

“And they’re doing that for political purposes and not in the interest of the city.”

The poll also asked Scots about their voting intention at a future Holyrood election.

As is expected shortly after an election, there has been little movement in the public’s support for each of the major parties.

However, with council elections around the corner in 2022, the figures provide a degree of intelligence as to the strength of each party’s offering going into those key elections.

In the constituency vote, with 48 per cent the SNP still holds a commanding 26 point lead over their closest challengers, Scottish Labour, who have not previously had a clear lead over the Conservatives in the constituency vote in any poll undertaken by Savanta ComRes for The Scotsman.

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This puts Labour on 22 per cent, up two points since September, and the Conservatives on 20, down two points, with both changes within the margin of error.

The Liberal Democrats remain on 7 per cent, with other polling at 3 per cent.

For the regional list vote, the SNP are up two points to 38 per cent, with the Conservatives down one point on 22 per cent and Labour up two points to 20 per cent.

This is the highest level of support for Labour in this poll series since early February.

Support for the Scottish Greens has dropped by two points to 11 per cent, with the Liberal Democrats holding steady on 7 per cent.

Alba, led by former first minister Alex Salmond, is down one point to 1 per cent of the vote, alongside ‘others’.

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