They came in their thousands, from every walk of life, from every faith and from every sector of Scottish society. And they came because they were worried about planet Earth.

An estimated 8000 people marched through Glasgow yesterday in by far the biggest climate change protest Scotland has ever seen. A further 20,000 took to the streets of London to demand action to cut the pollution that is warming the globe, on the eve of the crucial world summit in Copenhagen.

Political and religious leaders, trades unions, students, church groups, community organisations and environmentalists came together in an unprecedented coalition to demand “climate justice” for the world’s poor, who are already suffering due to changing weather patterns.

One group who were notable by their absence were the Scottish Government’s Nationalists, most of whom were attending the party’s council in Perth. The SNP leader, Alex Salmond, had earlier turned down an invitation to address the protest.

The two-hour march, dubbed “The Wave”, was organised by the Stop Climate Chaos coalition in Scotland, which brings together 60 organisations.

“We have to let our leaders know that we expect more of them,” the group’s chair, Mike Robinson, told protesters.

The promises to reduce pollution made by the US and the European Union “just don’t cut it,” he said. “We in the EU and US are most to blame. If we commit then others will follow.”

He was speaking at a rally in Kelvingrove Park, where protesters of all ages gathered after walking from Bellahouston Park, near Ibrox. They were accompanied by a pipe band, legions of drummers, people painted as tigers on stilts and even a Santa on a bike.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith O’Brien told the crowd that 262 million people worldwide were affected by climate-related disasters between 2000 and 2004.

“Our society seems to have become immune to what is urgent,” he said.

“When banks go bust governments seem able to mobilise extraordinary energy and efforts, as well as unconscionably large sums of money to bail them out. This response stands in stark contrast to the ponderous efforts to address poverty and climate change.”

Selina Shelley, an Oxfam campaigner from Bangladesh, talked about how people in her country were struggling to cope with climate change.

“Floods, natural disasters and severe weather events are robbing families of their children and taking homes, jobs, food and water,” she said.

Kathy Galloway, the head of Christian Aid Scotland, said the world’s poor were suffering the most because of climate change.

“They are the people who have done the least to cause it and have the least resources to do anything about it,” she said.

“The fabric and future of life itself is facing an ecological holocaust which threatens life on Earth. In the last 25 years alone, the human species has destroyed one-third of its non-renewable resources.”

Towards the back of the assembled masses, Carole O’Donnell from Milngavie stood quietly with her extended family of eight, including her children and three grandchildren.

“We are here because we care about the planet,” she said. “We have brought three generations here to say to leaders that they must act.”