COP26: UK Government found alternative London venue for Glasgow summit

UK Government officials held talks with a conference centre in London about moving a major UN climate summit away from Glasgow, it has emerged.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the official launch of the COP26 conference
Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the official launch of the COP26 conference

The ExCeL centre in East London was sounded out as a possible fallback option to host COP26 amid a row between the UK and Scottish governments over the organisation of the conference, particularly the cost of policing and the availability of venue space.

News of the rift broke into the open this month with the sacking of summit president Claire Perry, who then wrote an extraordinary letter attacking both governments over their conduct.

Ms Perry revealed that Boris Johnson had threatened to move the event away from Glasgow over the row, and claimed he had rejected a suggestion that Nicola Sturgeon be given a formal role by calling her “that bloody Wee Jimmy Krankie woman” - something Downing Street denies.

At a conference in London yesterday to mark the build-up to COP26, Nicola Sturgeon called for a “reset” in relations and said it was “vital” that “squabbles” between the two governments do not get in the way of the event being a success.

“It’s normal for an event of this magnitude to have contingency measures,” a source told the Financial Times. “We are pretty committed to Scotland.”

Scottish Green leader Patrick Harvie said: “Glasgow has the infrastructure and venue to host the COP international summit. We also have many people keen to challenge the UK and Scottish Government on their lack of action tackling the climate emergency.

“Glasgow has a fantastic opportunity to use the platform to be heard. The UK Government has already left the world wondering if it is serious about this conference.

“They’ve sacked the person in charge, they’ve shown more interest in union flags and provoking a spat with the Scottish Government, and they have shown none of the leadership that’s needed.

“If they now can’t even decide which venue to book, they will lose any remaining shred of credibility.”