Scotland’s party leaders left ‘chastened’ on climate action by audience of young people
In the run up to the recent Scottish Parliament elections, young people launched a scathing attack on party leaders at the #ScotHotSeat youth climate hustings, accusing them of ignoring the climate emergency facing their generation.
The Climate Hot Seat event was organised by YouthLink Scotland through Our Bright Future Project, and supported by: Fridays for Future Scotland; 2050 Climate Group; Young Friends of the Earth Scotland; Children in Scotland; Teach the Future Scotland and the Scottish Youth Parliament.
Dylan Hamilton, aged 16, a climate and environmental activist from West Lothian accused politicians of patronising young people and failing to act:
“I want to show you all we are very, very angry. We are trying to knock down your doors. I have sacrificed my education and having a normal childhood to pressure you to fix a problem that we have known about for a decade before I was born. If the comments here tonight have shown us anything, it’s that young people don’t agree that you have done what is necessary either.
“All of the important climate deadlines, 2030, 2045, 2050 I will live through. If I live to the same age as my granny lived to, I will see the next century. This is my future life and it’s the lives of people around the world right now. You should not be inspired by us, you should be angry and upset. This is my Highers year, during a global pandemic and I have a chronic illness. I should have enough to worry about without having to worry about the possibility of the largest refugee crisis we have ever seen.”
In response, Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour Leader said:
“I know young people are impatient, fizzing and angry. We need young people’s voices to be front and centre in climate change, in teaching the true history of our country, and necessary future skills. We need to ensure the climate is at the heart of our national recovery.”
Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister and Leader of the Scottish National Party said it was right young people “bang down our doors” and that she would not “pass the buck” to the younger generation:
"We can’t just recognise, we need to act. This is a pivotal moment. When things fall apart you can chose how you put them back together. We need to prioritise an investment-led green recovery era and tackling inequalities. Words are easy but hold us to account on our actions."
Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Douglas Ross said it was clear that politicians had failed young people:
"We have to see and deliver meaningful outcomes at COP26 in Glasgow this year and young people will play a big part in making that a success. There is no doubt that we have a lot of work to do as it looks like we have let you down for too long."
Patrick Harvie, Co-Convener of the Scottish Greens said these issues are frightening and daunting:
"It can create a lot of anxiety to face up to the challenges that your generation has been left to face. This moment is an incredible opportunity. We need to invest in the future & reshape our society. The Green Manifesto will investment in renewables, warm homes, public transport, restoring nature, ensuring we have a fair and equal society.”
Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie thanked young people for a “feisty” debate and said:
“You have all made us feel uncomfortable. This is the sharp end and I am grateful for you being very blunt with us. We need to make sure we contribute to the sustainable development of our country if we are going to have a planet for future generations.”
During the debate, all five party leaders said they would ban single use plastics and there was agreement that climate education in Scottish schools needed to be put in place as a priority.
On the subject of protecting Scotland’s natural environment, Patrick Harvie said:
“We shouldn’t have large swathes of our landscape ecologically degraded so that rich people can come along and shoot birds for fun. Humanity has, and continues to, perpetrate a war against nature. The scale of what’s required here is extraordinary.”
The Climate Hot Seat’ was organised by young people aged 13-32 representing seven youth organisations in Scotland. The event was a space specifically for young people to hold party leaders accountable for their climate action and to give other young people valuable information in advance of casting their vote on May 6th.
Anna Balmain, 13, representing Children in Scotland, said: “Action needs to be taken to combat the climate crisis, and the decision on whether this action is taken, depends on each and every one of us.”
Fatima Bari MSYP, 18, representing the Scottish Youth Parliament, said: “I am passionate about climate change and want to make changes that better the environment and I believe one of the ways we do this is by holding our politicians to account and making sure they have the environment’s best interests at heart.”
Natalie Sweeney, 27, 2050 Climate Group, said: “With everything going on in the world right now, it would be easy for climate issues to take a back seat and we are making sure that doesn’t happen.”
If you missed the hustings you can still watch the debate