Nicola Sturgeon's government could bear major cost if COP26 was cancelled, documents reveal

Nicola Sturgeon’s government is acting as an “agent” of the UK Government and could bear the cost of significant bills in the event of COP26’s cancellation due to its relationship with third-party suppliers, it can be revealed.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, during a visit to Prestwick Airport on Wednesday

It can also be revealed several public bodies, including the Crown Office and the Scottish Prison Service, will receive additional funding paid for by the UK Government to help with costs incurred by COP26, reaching into the millions.

However, the Scottish Government is not explicitly included in discussing the “policy objectives” of the conference in the “roles and responsibilities” section of the document, despite the focus on the importance of COP26 and its impact on stopping climate change from the First Minister.

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Infrastructure being put in place at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, the site of the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties - also known as Cop26.

It comes as documents obtained by The Scotsman under Freedom of Information legislation state COP26 president Alok Sharma and the UK Government’s Cabinet Office will “oversee” the “development and oversight of the event programme, policy objectives and deliverables of COP26”.

The Scottish Government’s involvement, the documents suggest, extend to helping organise the event and by acting as an “agent” of the Cabinet Office, entering into contracts with third-party suppliers around the organisation of the conference.

The documents state the SNP administration will provide “their expertise on delivering high-profile, large-scale events”, with all costs connected with the conference to be reimbursed by the UK Government.

No announcement as to the official role of Ms Sturgeon at the conference has ever been made.

In an official memorandum of understanding (MoU), a political agreement between the UK Government and the Scottish Government on how COP26 will work and how costs will be paid, there is no mention of the Scottish Government being involved in “policy objectives and deliverables” from the conference.

This is despite an increased focus on climate policy and COP26 from the SNP, which also welcomed two additional ministers from coalition partners the Scottish Greens.

It also comes after reports in The Independent earlier this month that advisers within the UK Government were working on plans to sideline the First Minister and to avoid the summit becoming an “advert” for Scottish independence.

Responding to those reports, Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “All that matters is that COP26 delivers an outcome to meet the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to 1.5C. We must work together and maximise contributions towards that.

"Anyone – me or PM – who allowed politics to get in way would be abdicating that responsibility.”

Mr Sharma insisted the conference would be an “all-of-UK” event when questioned by MSPs at Holyrood’s net zero committee last week.

The memorandum also includes a commitment from the UK Government to cover third party costs incurred by the Scottish Government and costs to public bodies which are incurred “to protect normal levels of public services”.

It can be revealed the cost to the wider criminal justice system in Scotland from COP26 is estimated at around £11.5m, with £2m attributed to the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service.

This is despite sheriff courts across Scotland not sitting for around three weeks from October 25 to November 12.

Other public bodies including the Scottish Prison Service, SEPA, the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner, and the Scottish Legal Aid Board have asked for additional funding to help cope with additional costs from COP26.

It is understood costs connected with COP26 are still being finalised.

Responding, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are proud to welcome COP26 to Scotland, knowing how important the summit is to accelerating international action on the climate emergency.

"We have been working very closely with the UK Government and partners, including Glasgow City Council and Police Scotland, to deliver a safe, secure and successful COP26 in November.

“This MoU was put in place to address concerns that bodies such as Police Scotland would not be reimbursed for work delivered to support COP26.

"Scottish ministers have long maintained that it is right that the UK Government covers all costs related to the hosting of the event in Scotland, and the MoU provides a process to ensure Scotland’s public services are appropriately reimbursed.

“The Scottish Government has direct control over its own spend on COP26 and is supporting a programme of events in Glasgow and across Scotland. While the MoU acknowledges the role of the UK’s COP Presidency, the Scottish Government is playing a key part in securing success at the summit.

"We will be showcasing Scotland’s world-leading approach to tackling the climate emergency and delivering a just transition to a net-zero future. We will also work with other nations to secure ambitious climate commitments and, critically, to translate these into action.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: "As hosts of COP26, the UK Government is working closely and extensively with our Scottish delivery partners, including the Scottish Government, to ensure the delivery of a safe, successful COP26 in Glasgow this November.

"The Prime Minister has been clear that there is a role for all the First Ministers from across the UK at COP26."

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