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Age Scotland hits out at Green minister’s comments about older people

This news post is 10 months old

The charity said Patrick Harvie’s comments were “ill-considered”. 

Scotland’s national charity for older people has hit out at a government minister following claims that older generations had not “come to terms with the reality of what the climate emergency requires of us all collectively”. 

Scottish Greens MSP Patrick Harvie, who sits as Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants' Rights, made comments during an interview with the Scotland on Sunday that Age Scotland said “undermine older people’s participation in society”. 

The charity told the Herald the remarks were "ill-considered and patronising" and an “ageist stereotype.”

Mr Harvie, 50, gave the remarks to the newspaper following questions regarding other MSPs, including 65-year-old Fergus Ewing. 

During this interview, Mr Harvie was asked his thoughts on Mr Ewing and fellow MSP Kate Forbes, 33.

He told the newspaper: “I think very different things about the two of them. We’ll probably agree and disagree about a range of different things, but one of them is a bright and articulate person and the other is not.”

He added: “The other is Fergus Ewing.

"He represents a generation that simply hasn’t moved on and come to terms with the reality of what the climate emergency requires of us all collectively.”

Age Scotland warned that the comments make older people “feel less valued and can lead to greater isolation and loneliness”. 

Katherine Crawford, interim chief executive of Age Scotland, said the charity was disappointed by Mr Harvie’s comments.

She told the Herald: “We have been campaigning for years to shift the negative narrative that exists around ageing so it is sad to see such a sweeping – and inaccurate – statement made about older people.

“It is wrong, of course, but such comments also fundamentally undermine older people’s participation in society, make them feel less valued and can lead to greater isolation and loneliness.

“Older people make important contributions to the climate debate, as they do in all areas of life.

“Our Big Survey, which will be published in full next month, found that almost two thirds of older people said protecting the environment was very important and 51% said tackling climate change was very important to them, which makes the suggestion that older people are unaware of the extent of the climate crisis or how to mitigate it come across as ill-considered and somewhat patronising.

“We hope that everyone, whether they are a politician or not, will think twice about the language they use when speaking about older people and we will continue our work to ensure that ageist stereotypes are removed from our public discourse now and in the future.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Greens told TFN: "Successive generations of politicians in the UK and across the globe have for decades failed to recognise the severity of the climate crisis or treat it with the urgency required. Those governments ducked the vital changes that should have been made years ago.

"Even today we see the likes of Labour rolling back on low emission zones and climate funding, and the Prime Minister issuing oil and gas licences and approving coal mines despite science telling us to cut our emissions.

"Yet turn on any TV screen over the past few weeks and what our children will see, what young people today are terrified by, are the massive wildfires razing entire communities, floods engulfing cities across Europe, and asking why we have let it happen?

"This is the biggest environmental crisis we will ever face, which is why we need people of all ages, young or old, to do their bit. That's not ageist, its fact, something we must surely all agree on."