Hundreds set to skip classes for climate strike

Hundreds of school pupils are boycotting classes today to join a mass international demonstration calling for UK and world leaders to step up action against climate change.

Youth protests in Amsterdam yesterday while Edinburgh school student Sandy Boyd, above right, will help rally Scottish action today. Picture: Getty

The protests are part of a movement inspired by Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old Swedish schoolgirl who has been missing lessons to sit outside government offices in her country in a bid to persuade lawmakers to comply with the Paris climate agreement.

It’s the second global youth strike for climate, with children turning out in 50 countries. In Scotland, protests are being staged in at least 18 locations, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Stirling, and as far afield as Ullapool, Fort William, South Uist, Orkney and Eigg.

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Among those gathering outside the Scottish Parliament is Sandy Boyd, a 14-year-old S3 student from Trinity Academy in Edinburgh. He is a co-founder of campaign group Edinburgh Youth Strikes, which is helping spearhead actions in the capital.

The group, made up of youngsters from six high schools across the city, is expecting 500 to 600 pupils to join the strike at Holyrood.

He said: “I’ve been aware of the issues surrounding climate change for a long time but didn’t realise the seriousness of the situation.

“Young people are deeply worried and we want our voices heard. “We can’t vote, yet it’s our futures that will be most affected by climate change.

“We need to get our leaders to listen. This is too important.

“The message must get through before it’s too late.”

A special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year warned that aims to keep global warming under 1.5C were off track and there remained 12 years to rectify the situation.

Josie Law, also 14, from Edinburgh’s Broughton High School, believes the protests are an effective way to make society heed the upcoming generation’s concerns.

She said: There’s no better way to make our point than not be where we’re supposed to be. Adults are not the only people in the world, and if they’re building a future we don’t want then we need to take action.

“People have criticised us missing lessons, but there’s not much point in education if there is no planet to live on.”

Holly Gillibrand has been protesting every Friday since January in Fort William.

Her mum, Kate Willis, is completely behind her daughter’s actions.

She said: “For years now I have been seriously concerned about climate change and the ecological breakdown we are causing, and the lack of action at a government level.

“I support Holly in her weekly strikes because it is clear that she also understands the seriousness of what we are facing and what the future holds for her and her generation if governments do not take urgent action very soon.”

The latest strike is expected to be much larger than the first, held last month, when around 600 Scots were among around 15,000 youngsters across the UK who skipped school to protest.

Almost a third of Scotland’s local authorities have now followed Edinburgh City Council, which announced it would not punish pupils for missing classes to join the strikes – absence will be considered “authorised” as long as parental permission is given.

Nine councils have now indicated in response to letters from Scottish Green MSPs that they won’t pursue punitive action against young people taking part.

These include Argyll and Bute, Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee, Eilean Siar, Fife, Glasgow, Highland and Renfrewshire.

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer welcomes the move.

He said: “The growth of the global grassroots youth climate strike movement is staggering. Just seven months on from Greta Thunberg starting her weekly protests outside the Swedish parliament there are strikes planned in over 100 countries worldwide and involving young people from every corner of Scotland.

“Those councils who’ve backed our calls not to punish schoolchildren for taking part have done the right thing, allowing their young citizens to be heard on the defining issue of their generation.

“It’s vital now that politicians don’t just listen – we need decisive action to stop climate breakdown.”