COP26: Up to 100,000 to march in Glasgow on Saturday in massive climate change protest

Up to 100,000 protesters are expected to converge on Glasgow on Saturday in one of a series of major climate change rallies across the world to coincide with the COP26 summit in the city.

Dozens of roads across the city centre and west end will be closed from 5am, with possible disruption spreading to air passengers after activists threatened unspecified action at or near Glasgow Airport.

Some 50,000 to 100,000 people are expected to join the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice march in Glasgow, which will assemble from 11:30am in Kelvingrove Park in the west end then traverse the city centre from noon to a rally at Glasgow Green in the east end from 3pm.

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It is one of 250 simultaneous “actions” planned by march organisers the COP26 Coalition across the world – 100 of which will be in the UK.

Thousands of youth activists marching through Glasgow on Friday. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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Other rallies include at Magdalen Green in Dundee, with associated events planned for Aviemore, Brodick, Elgin, Inverness, Kyleakin, Montrose and Tayport.

South of the Border, protests include a march from the Bank of England to Trafalgar Square in London.

They follow a youth-focused march in Glasgow today to George Square.

A "heat map" of Glasgow for Saturday, showing the march route from Kelvingrove Park to Glasgow Green in green and likely road congestion in red and pink. Picture: GetReadyGlasgow

A spokesperson for the COP26 Coalition said: “Across the world, the poorest people and communities of colour are too often those bearing the brunt of the climate crisis.

"We have a unique opportunity to rewire our system as we recover from the [Covid] pandemic.

"We can either intensify the crisis to the point of no return, or lay the foundations for a just world where everyone’s needs are met.”

Iona Campbell, 23, a Glasgow University student and charity worker, said she would be joining the march because “it’s very pressing and important to get involved".

She said: “World leaders and companies have had their say. Now it’s a chance to make our voice heard.

"There’s nothing better than getting out on the streets with a common aim.”

ScotRail said some trains may be “extremely busy” on Saturday, with extra carriages being added to services through Partick and Charing Cross stations.

However, the operator said it had been carrying only just over half of normal passengers during COP26, with the extra conference-related traffic being cancelled out by others deciding not to travel.

A “heat map” for Saturday of likely road congestion, produced by the official Get Ready Glasgow information service, is the “hottest” of the two-week climate change conference, with motorways and many other roads likely to be affected.

It said: “The attendance figure for the event could be as high as 100,000 with attendees travelling from across Scotland and the UK.”

However, major roads are quieter at weekends than weekdays and heavy rain and winds gusting up to 40mph are forecast, which could deter some would-be marchers.

Road industry sources told The Scotsman that despite fears of congestion, peak-hour traffic during COP26 had been up to 25 per cent less than normal.

They suggested drivers had decided not to travel to Glasgow or changed their journey times.

Some 700 cyclists are among those due to join the march from more than 20 group rides feeding in from across Scotland.

Organisers Pedal on COP said they were coming from as far as Aberdeen, Inverness and Dumfries under the slogan “This Machine Fights Climate Change”.

A spokesperson said it was “frustrated at seeing cycling and active travel [walking and wheeling] overlooked as part of the solution to catastrophic climate change”.

“With transport emissions rising in the UK and other developed countries, the slow pace of change towards electric cars will not be sufficient to deliver the cuts in carbon that experts agree are needed within the next few years,” the spokesperson said.

Glasgow Airport is due to be one of ten across the UK targeted by protest group Stay Grounded at 11am on Saturday.

The others are Bristol, Doncaster Sheffield, Gatwick, Leeds Bradford, London City, Luton, Liverpool, Manchester and Southampton.

Stay Grounded claimed the aviation industry had exaggerated how quickly it could cut emissions from new fuels, and electric and hydrogen propulsion.

The group said the timing of the action was so protesters could join the COP26 Coalition marches at noon, but declined to give any further details.

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