THE UK Government has been criticised for having to be "dragged kicking and screaming" to a global conference examining the risk to humanity from the use of nuclear weapons, after coming under pressure from Scottish politicians.

International Development Minister Humza Yousaf last month wrote to Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond urging the UK to send an official delegation to the two-day conference in Vienna, Austria which begins tomorrow.

He also called for a minister from Scotland to be included, pointing out it is the only nation in the UK to host nuclear weapons at Faslane and that the Scottish Government would have a lead role in responding to any nuclear incident north of the Border.

In February, the UK Government had outlined its general position towards the conferences, saying it had not attended the previous event held in Mexico in February this year because of concerns that "many supporters of the conference appear to have a nuclear weapons convention prohibiting nuclear weapons outright as their ultimate goal".

Last Tuesday, with less than a week to go before the event, Hammond finally confirmed that the UK's ambassador to Austria would attend the third international conference on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons. It is expected to be attended by more than 150 countries, including the USA for the first time.

Westminster SNP leader Angus Robertson, who is also attending the conference and had called on the UK to send a delegation, said: "It's disappointing that the UK needed to be dragged kicking and screaming to this important conference.

"Prime Minister Cameron was under strong pressure for the UK to attend from the Scottish Government and the SNP at Westminster, and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland raised it personally with him.

"Scotland is sadly home to the entire UK nuclear fleet, and Whitehall needs to take the humanitarian impact of these weapons of mass destruction seriously."

However, the Scottish Government says Westminster failed to respond to its request for a minister to attend. It will instead be represented by SNP MSP Bill Kidd, who is attending as part of the delegation from Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "The Scottish Government are deeply disappointed that we have yet to receive a reply from the Foreign Secretary to Mr Yousaf's letter requesting attendance at the Vienna conference as part of the UK delegation. A Scottish Government representative will attend the conference and we understand a UK Government representative will also attend.

"Given the ongoing lack of clarity as to whether a Scottish Government minister could attend as part of the official Government delegation, Mr Yousaf will not be at the conference. However, he will receive a full report from the Scottish Government representative."

In recent years there has been growing focus among the international community on the fallout and risks associated with nuclear weapons, which the conference programme notes "bear an unacceptable risk to humanity and to all life on earth".

Kidd will deliver a message from Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a pre-conference session taking place today, which emphasises the Scottish Parliament and Government's opposition to the stationing of the UK's fleet of Trident nuclear submarines and their missiles and warheads at Faslane.

In her statement, Sturgeon added: "In votes taken in the last and present Scottish Parliaments there has been a clear opposition to the continuance and replacement of Trident. Civic society in Scotland is overwhelmingly against the stationing of nuclear weapons systems on our land or waters."

Kidd said: "The Westminster Government may think it is ­acceptable to dump their supply of nuclear weapons in Scotland, but the message from Scotland's Government, Scotland's Parliament and Scotland's people is that weapons of mass destruction have no place here.

"In the week where we learned that 60% of Westminster's cuts are still to be inflicted, there is surely no justification for wasting billions on nuclear weapons."

Kidd added: "What has been particularly disappointing is the fact that a sustained pressure campaign was required before the UK agreed to even send a delegation to this conference.

"Nuclear weapons are an ­obscenity, but if a country has chosen to possess them then they simply cannot hide from the humanitarian consequences that come with the weapons.

"It is long past time that the UK faced up to this fact, and I hope that this conference will be the start of that process."

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We have accepted Austria's invitation to attend the Vienna conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons on December 8-9.

"The UK will be represented by Mrs Susan Le Jeune, the UK's Ambassador to Austria and Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency."

On the issue of the request by the Scottish Government, she added: "Austria has issued an open invitation to parliamentarians to attend the conference in their individual capacities, but they will not be part of the UK delegation."