Nicola Sturgeon denies making COP26 about independence after advert row

Nicola Sturgeon has denied using COP26 as an event to promote the cause of Scottish independence, labelling accusations she had done so “not true”.

The First Minister also said she had concerns about reports of women being asked to walk through Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park in the dark by police, just months after the murder of Sarah Everard.

Speaking to journalists at COP26 on Tuesday, the SNP leader denied her party had used COP26 to promote independence after a row around adverts in Scottish newspapers.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon denied using COP26 to promote the cause of Scottish independence.First Minister Nicola Sturgeon denied using COP26 to promote the cause of Scottish independence.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon denied using COP26 to promote the cause of Scottish independence.
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Claiming the ads, which said Scotland was not “yet” independent and instead was a “nation in waiting”, were about “welcoming” people to Scotland, Ms Sturgeon rejected suggestions it was inappropriate during the climate change conference.

Opposition parties labelled the adverts “distracting and divisive”, but when asked whether she accepted the criticism she had made COP26 about independence, Ms Sturgeon said: "No I don’t, because it is not true.”

She added: “We didn’t launch a campaign. We had adverts in a couple of newspapers welcoming people to Scotland. I think there is a difference.

"This conference is about climate change and I don’t think anybody hearing or listening or speaking to me over the course of yesterday and today would think I’m focused on anything other than that.”

Ms Sturgeon was also asked about reports women in Glasgow were being told by police to walk in unlit areas of Glasgow due to road closures caused by the world leaders’ summit.

Police Scotland apologised after concerns were raised following a “last-minute” decision by the force to reroute women through areas including Kelvingrove Park.

The First Minister said: "It won’t surprise you to hear that I would have concerns about any suggestion that women were put into what even they would feel was a position of not being safe.

"Obviously for understandable reasons, there was a significant security operation around Kelvingrove last night.

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“I think the police are doing a fantastic job here, so I’m not being critical of them in any way, but women’s safety at all times, but particularly in light of recent concerns, is paramount.”

The First Minister also said the early days of COP26 had been “positive”, but the devil was in the detail of the announcements being made, including the pledge from more than 100 countries to end deforestation.

She added there was a “sense of momentum” from the beginning of the talks and despite sharing Boris Johnson’s pessimism in the early days of the summit, the First Minister stressed the importance of remaining optimistic.

“I think all of these steps forward are positive and I think it’s really important to retain a sense of optimism and forward momentum,” she said.

“I think it’s really important … to look at the announcements that are being made at the moment and assess the extent to which they move forward from commitments that had already been made, or are they re-statements of commitments?

“I think yesterday there was a sense of momentum, but where that momentum will take us over the next couple of weeks remains to be seen.”

The First Minister claimed there would still be a “gap” between where emissions currently sit and where they need to be to protect the long-term future of the climate, adding: “How big that gap is remains to be seen, but what is really important is the process that comes out of [the summit] to close that gap in the future.”

Ms Sturgeon said the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) of each country, which lay out how governments plans to cut emissions, should be reviewed annually or biannually.

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The First Minister also said she was under no illusions that climate activists Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate were against the drilling at the Cambo oilfield, something the Scottish Government has said should be “reassessed”.

The SNP leader said: "It won’t surprise you to hear they had questions about the detail of our policy, not least on oil and gas, but it was a good and constructive conversation.

"I think it is fair to say and I don’t think this would surprise anybody, that they and Greta in particular have a healthy degree of scepticism about what is going to be achieved in here and whether it is going to be sufficient to meet the scale and urgency of the problem.

“It wasn’t an adversarial discussion. We had a good discussion about the issues and what they think is important, me sort of talking about the considerations and the processes that somebody in my position has to go through, so it wasn’t that kind of ‘you must do this’ kind of conversation.

"But I’m under no illusions about the views of Greta Thunberg on Cambo and on oil and gas drilling generally. So there’s no sense that I left that room thinking that she was anything other than completely opposed to Cambo, and that she would want me to be completely opposed to it as well.”

Ms Sturgeon also told journalists she had briefly spoken to US president Joe Biden during a lavish reception at Kelvingrove Museum on Monday night.

“I spoke to [Mr Biden] briefly last night at Kelvingrove,” she said.

“I welcomed him to Scotland. We had a very brief conversation about the importance of the climate discussions that are under way.

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“But I spoke to a large number of leaders who are here during the reception last night.”

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