Former first minister Jack McConnell has blasted the Scottish Government for allowing a railway strike to disrupt the lead-up to Cop26.

The ex-Scottish Labour leader said industrial action was “embarrassing” during a UN conference that’s expected to discuss how public transport could be key to solving climate change.

It was announced last week that railway workers’ union RMT would stage strike action during the talks over an ongoing pay row.

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Industrial action has already crippled Sunday services for months.

Lord McConnell was first minister when the G8 summit of world leaders met at ­Gleneagles in 2005.

He said: “Cop26 is a different scale of event from G8.

Police officers clash with protesters in Edinburgh in 2005

"While G8 sees world leaders gather it is significantly smaller, is held annually and has a smaller remit.

“Cop26 will be a very different event.

“There will be many, many more leaders here discussing something with greater urgency.

“It’s possibly the biggest summit of national leaders the UK has ever held. It’s vitally important that it runs smoothly.

“It’s astonishing that there has been strikes on Scottish trains all year and we still don’t have a proper strategy from the Scottish Government to solve the problem.

"We are seeing the outcome of that – in the lead-up to the biggest event that will ever come to Scotland.

A ScotRail train enters a tunnel.
Scotrail confirmed a strike during COP26 yesterday

“It’s embarrassing that the rail service is being brought to its knees during a conference that will offer better public transport as a solution to climate change.”

Delegates – including McConnell – have been quizzed on how they will travel to the climate change talks, which will be held between October 31 and November 12 at the SEC, a few minutes’ walk from Glasgow’s ­Exhibition Centre railway station.

McConnell said: “I am attending as a delegate and have had to fill in forms.

“It asks, ‘How will you be travelling there?’ It says, ‘We, the Scottish, UK Government and UN – want delegates to use the most environmentally friendly way to travel to the conference.’

“Large numbers of people will think that will be by train but they may arrive and find there are no trains on.

“The idea we are on the verge of rail strikes with apparently no interest from the Scottish Government and transport minister is astonishing. This is an environmental summit where environmentally-sound forms of transport should be the priority.”

ScotRail says its latest 4.7 per cent two-year offer is “very reasonable” for rail workers but the RMT said it would not ballot workers on a “lousy” deal.

ScotRail negotiations involve changes to the terms and conditions of workers, RMT claimed.

If the strike goes ahead, RMT claims there will be no trains running ­anywhere in the country.

It could be part of a wider action throughout Scotland. GMB cleansing workers in Glasgow, tasked with ­tidying the streets ahead of Cop26, have vowed to take industrial action.

GMB Glasgow Cleansing Convenor Chris Mitchell

GMB’s Chris Mitchell said calls for the Scottish Government to intervene in its row with the city’s council have been ignored.

He added: “We haven’t heard ­anything and will move ahead with our plans next week.”

Unite’s Stagecoach staff have also voted to strike during the talks.

Policing will also be stretched with up to 100,000 people expected to take part in a Global Day of Action protest through Glasgow on November 6.

Other protests scheduled include those from groups such as Insulate Britain who have blocked roads in ­London. Roads around the Cop26 site, including the Clydeside Expressway, will be closed for the duration of the three-week event.

McConnell said: “We need strong leadership that is working together and has absolute focus.

Jack McConnell with Russian President Vladimir Putin at Prestwick Airport in 2005

“Scotland and the world needs Cop26 to happen and for it to be successful.We need all leaders to be focused on reaching agreements.

“Anything that distracts from that will have future generations accusing governments of failing and say ‘What on Earth were they doing?’”

The Scottish Government said it was holding “constructive talks” with union chiefs.

A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “We welcome the constructive talks which have taken place.

“A significant offer has been made by employers. We hope that all unions will accept this offer, ­putting to an end existing and proposed industrial disputes and action.

“Rail workers have played their part in keeping the country moving through the pandemic and we are sure they will see the importance of the moment and the role they can play in showing the best Scotland’s railway has to offer as we welcome world leaders to Cop26.”