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Alex Bell: Nicola Sturgeon’s government is sticking two fingers up at Greta Thunberg

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (right) during a special ceremonial gathering to welcome the Mapuche leader and Minga Indigena indigenous delegates to COP26 in Glasgow (Photo: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

At COP26, every national leader sounds like Moses holding back the sea to lead us to the promised land of solving the climate crisis. Suddenly so righteous.

Few have been more evangelical than Nicola Sturgeon.

With no responsibility for the climate negotiations, she has used the event to promote the nation, the SNP and herself. The message is that we are the good guys.

It may have played well on the TV, but for anyone familiar with the climate issue and Scottish policy, it has been an outrageous display of hypocrisy.

She began the week in cashmere. Wrapped up in luxury clothes for a Vogue feature, she told the glossy magazine how serious she was about the climate.

The contradiction of promoting the utterly non-essential business of fashion in a world starting to count its resources didn’t matter.

Meanwhile, her party were putting together a newspaper advert promoting Scotland and its possible independence as part of COP26. The copy began: “Scotland helped lead the world into the Industrial Age”.

We didn’t help. We were front and centre.

Scotland slightly lagged England but, in effect, all the nations of the UK led the industrial revolution.

The ad thought this a good thing to boast about, in the traditional style of Scottish pride deriving from the “Scots invented the modern world” story.

Scotland’s CO2 history is nothing to brag about

Most of the nations attending COP26 are all too aware that the event is being held in a city once known as the workshop of the world. It is central to their anger about restrictions on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions – the Scots got rich by burning fossil fuels while now telling the rest of the world it can’t get rich, because it shouldn’t industrialise.

We are as good as ground zero when it comes to blame for heating the world over the last 250 years. There’s no point dwelling on the unintended consequences of what past generations did, but it’s stupid to deny the truth.

Meanwhile, Sturgeon was urging people to put politics aside in the search for a climate solution, just as the newspaper ads were firmly placing politics at the centre.

Never mind, as by this time she was greeting native Americans barefoot, empathising with the land grab and natural exploitation which had left them poor and powerless on ancestral lands.

Nicola Sturgeon welcomes Mapuche leader and Minga Indigena Lead Coordinator Calfin Lafkenche and indigenous delegates in Glasgow for COP26 (Photo: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

Anyone who has dealt with the SNP on the land grab by rich elites in the Highlands, and the exploitation of natural resources which has left much of our nation a desert, will know Sturgeon isn’t so touchy-feely.

Land reform is a chore to the Nats – a policy to be humoured.

While Glasgow and other cities were getting rich from industrialisation, our forests were being decimated, our people evicted or driven off the land by poverty, our ecosystem denuded. Fourteen years of SNP government has done little to reverse this, or to recognise that Scotland’s environment is possibly its single greatest economic driver in the future.

Photo ops over policy in Sturgeon’s world

No matter, as Sturgeon had moved on to have her photo taken next to Greta Thunberg.

The young Swedish campaigner’s slogan is: “climate justice is social justice”. This recognises that resolving the climate crisis requires greater equity – of money, opportunity and living standards.

Sturgeon’s government sticks two fingers up to Thunberg. Nothing is done to address the social injustice of property being hoarded by the rich, driving up prices and leaving the poorer homeless.

Encouraging Scots to return to the empty lands of the Highlands is seen as dangerously lefty.

When given an opportunity, Sturgeon’s administration always favours the private sector over the public. Last week, the president of the Scottish National Farmers Union, Martin Kennedy, warned: “Scotland is fast becoming the bargain basement for overseas purchasers to invest in carbon credits to offset their own failings to better their own industry”.

Just as 250 years ago, we still offer up our valuable land to the rich.

Sturgeon abandons plans for a public energy company, knowing that, under the SNP’s watch, windmills dot the land. Windmills owned by outside investors, benefitting from tax breaks, who then sell the energy back to Scots at any price they like.

The old truth, that Scotland exports wealth to the world’s lucky few, remains a fundamental of our economy.

Will Scotland’s climate future benefit Scots?

Finally, beyond missed targets and pious word, where’s the vision?

The world’s climate is already changing. In 20 years, Scotland is likely to be wetter, but a lot better off than many places. We could allow the global rich to buy up our land and water, as they have in New Zealand, and become a safe heaven from the climate storm.

Are we to become a ghetto for the world’s elites, to escape their responsibility for the climate mess? And, if so, how does that benefit Scots?

The charge of hypocrisy could be made at any national leader. But Sturgeon is ours. She alone had the job of leadership. And, on every climate count, she is guilty of posing.

The army that followed Moses all drowned – here come the waters.