Youngsters expressed their frustration at a lack of progress on tackling climate change
Young people aired their frustrations with political party leaders at the #ScotHotSeat youth climate hustings this weekend, accusing them of ignoring the climate emergency facing their generation.
The leaders of the main parties took part in a "feisty" online debate with young people.
Dylan Hamilton, aged 16, a climate and environmental activist from West Lothian accused politicians of patronising young people and failing to act. He said: “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-convenor 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.
“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.”
Douglas Ross for the Conservatives pledged to introduce a Marine Biology Bill with a review of marine protected areas, as well as a Nature Bill. He also said the role of sheep in conserving our landscape was underestimated.
“When I travel up the A9 and I look out to wilderness and see a few sheep, actually what some people don’t acknowledge is the hard work those sheep are doing.”
Willie Rennie called for more investment in carbon capture and revealed he had wanted to follow a career as a nature reserve manager before entering politics. He said his party wanted tougher rules on plastics.
“Plastics play an important role in marine conservation, we need tighter regulations on the plastics industry, currently we have a voluntary code of conduct and we need to put that into legislation.”
On the subject of fossil fuels, Anas Sarwar said we needed to move away from an urban mindset in tackling climate change:
“We come sometimes from a central belt attitude, we need to think about recovery in terms of the whole of Scotland. We need to work better with assisting industry to transition to climate friendly and sustainable ways of working.”
Nicola Sturgeon said it was important to end the reliance on fossils fuels as quickly as possible whilst ensuring the industry is supported:
"I want us to end our reliance on fossil fuels as quickly as we can, but we have to make sure we’re not abandoning people who rely on that industry for jobs. Coal miners and steel workers in communities in Scotland were abandoned in the past, I grew up seeing the impact this can have – we cannot afford to do that again. We need to be supporting people into new jobs, otherwise we’ll be leaving an entire generation scarred by the loss of industry.”
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 6 May.
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.”
Emily Beever, senior development officer at YouthLink Scotland, supported young people with the event. She said: “Young people across Scotland were energised to question party leaders about the climate and nature emergencies, both from a distinctly local perspective and Scotland’s role in this global challenge. This hustings shows young people care deeply about the actions of politicians affecting their future and are ready and able to hold them accountable for their decisions.”