SOME of the strongest, most passionate voices in 2018 have been those of the young.

Teenagers, like Greta Thunberg, the schoolgirl and climate striker whose speech at the UN climate talks last month transfixed the world, have a lot to say about current events – and in many circumstances it would do us good to listen.

The voice of youth has been strong here in Scotland too, in 2018, our Year of Young People. As it comes to a close, we ask young activists, school students and youth campaigners what their hopes and fears are for the year ahead.

If they could wave a magic wand, what would they make change? And what about the world around them worries them most?


Holly Gillibrand, 13

"Climate change is what concerns me most about the world. My family have been worried about climate change, but it’s only started dawning on me in the last few years that it’s really serious and that we need to do something about it.

We stopped eating meat because that’s bad for the environment and we try to limit the amount of times we go in the car. We use green energy and we’re going to start growing our own vegetables.

A couple of weeks ago I went into Fort William town centre, and I talked to local cafes about using plastic straws because to make plastic you use fossil fuels. We recently had a meeting because we’re trying to create a Fort William Extinction Rebellion group so we can do some action in 2019.

I think, politically, there just needs to be much more action, because politicians and leaders are having all these climate talks but nothing is actually happening. We could tax CO2, we could tax meat to encourage more sustainable and ethical eating, but that isn’t happening. The politicians and the government need to be doing much more.

I’ve been reading about it and the UK government is planning to reduce 1990 greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, which is not enough. There need to be zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 worldwide.

There are still people in my class who don’t think that climate change exists. I think that one thing that needs to happen in 2019 is for schools to start educating young people on climate change. There needs to be more awareness. In one of my classes at high school we had some lessons on the global goals and it was depressing that climate action is number 13 when it should be number one.

I’ve seen quite a few of the talks by Greta Thunberg [the teenage activist who has inspired a generation with her climate strikes] and, in fact, after the holidays I’m going to start climate striking – only for an hour every Friday. I’m just going to sit outside school for an hour in the morning. I’m trying to get other people involved but on February 15 there’s going to be a UK-wide school strike.


Parisa Shirazi, 23

I work for an MP, and I come at this question from what I’ve seen in casework. There are a lot of things which make you very angry.

When you’re working in an MP’s office a lot of things that you deal with are to do with social security and immigration cases and what I see day in and day out is that perfectly ordinary, good people are being treated with a hell of a lot of scepticism. We see people whose benefits are being cut, people who are very ill being dragged in for disability assessments, people who are just applying for visiting visas for their family if they have a new baby in the UK and just facing blanket refusals.

So what I would like to see I less cynicism towards certain groups of people. There is a lot of scepticism towards people in the benefits system. There seems to be a lack of appreciation of the fact that the system is paid into by everyone and it’s there if anyone needs it. That’s what the welfare state is for – it’s not to demonise a certain group of people.

I’ve not always been political. I grew up in Northern Ireland, apathetic towards politics. I moved away when I was 18, studied in Durham and did my masters in Edinburgh.

I feel exhausted by Brexit. I feel like it was an enormous amount of upheaval for no gain. It just fills me with despair. Because if you study a law degree, as I did, you hear about things like disability rights and other rights that were brought about by being part of the EU.


Sanna Aziz, 18

"I do a lot of campaigning around race equality. What I would like to see in 2019 is a lot more research into the racial wage gap. There is not enough prominent research into what it is like for women of colour to be in the workplace and get paid so little compared to their white or male counterparts. I would also like to see some actual work being done in that area, in trying to make that equality, some sort of initiatives so there’s a whole government drive towards that goal.

Last year I went to the United States on an exchange set up in Jo Cox’s memory. It was inspiring. We visited so many different organisations. We went just after Trump was elected and they were talking about the amount of hate crime that was spiked then in the US. The organisations there felt like they were getting pushed back, but they were still pushing forward. They were saying no matter what happens just keep pushing forward because eventually you will make change.

What drives me is that when I was a kid, I experienced a lot of racially based bullying. I used to get so upset about it, but when I was older and in high school before I left, I talked to the kid and I asked him why and he didn’t have a proper reason for why.

From then I realised a lot of it is done out of ignorance, so from then on I tried to prevent people being as ignorant, and make them come to terms with the damage they can do when they’re being racist or homophobic.

I’m studying international politics at Stirling University. A large part of me is really nervous to go into the jobs market. But again, I’m hopeful. I’m just hopeful that everything will work out and my generation will be able to maybe not fix things, but improve them.

I want to see more consideration for what individuals experience on a day-to-day basis when they’re of colour. Because some days it’s fine, but other days you can be walking down the street and you get spat at or given dirty looks or something. Those things are not severe enough for people to say it’s a hate crime. It’s just a day to day stigma around people of colour that I want us to get rid of. I know it won’t happen overnight. It probably won’t happen in the next ten years but I’m hopeful.”


Hannah Brisbane, 21

“In 2019 I would like to see more girls having more confidence and speaking out on issues that matter to them and being invited into important discussions. With Girl Guiding Scotland next year we’re developing a youth forum and my role with them is helping lead to that. I’m really excited to give our members a space to speak out on issues that effect girls and young women.

I’ve had lots of opportunities over the past four years. I’ve given evidence at the Scottish Parliament in committees and met MPs and MSPs. So I definitely feel that I’ve been listened to and I’m keen to help other girls have that same experience. I’ve done a lot of work on sexual harassment and in particular harassment in schools.

Research we did a few years ago found that two-thirds of girls had experienced some sort of harassment in school. That’s unacceptable and we had the opportunity to bring that evidence to the Scottish Parliament and do some work with them on how we can change things, for instance develop Personal and Social Education.

We started that work before the Weinstein scandal came out. Movements like MeToo and TimesUp have forced people to take these issues more seriously.

Brexit makes the year ahead really uncertain. I voted Remain and I’m definitely worried about losing certain rights. For instance I was on an Erasmus exchange year last year and after school I worked for a year to save up to go travelling around Europe. I do French and politics at Edinburgh University, so I feel that possibilities from that might be more limited. I’d hope that those rights that we had will remain but no one knows what will happen

Nicola Sturgeon is probably one of my political heroes. I remember looking up to her even when she was just Health Secretary and thinking that women can be a force to be reckoned with in politics.”


Joe Hesmondhalgh, 19

"My biggest concern is climate change and the current climate crisis. It’s always been on my radar, but the UN report that came out in September really brought it to my attention. It said we had twelve years to stop the worst effects of the potential climate crisis and that terrified me. What is also terrifying to me is the lack of urgency from our government and powerful institutions and the media.

I got involved in Extinction Rebellion, a climate action group that uses non-violent, disruptive methods to get our voices heard, in November. I helped set up the Extinction Rebellion Glasgow group but also the Extinction Rebellion Glasgow University group and I’ve been involved in two direct actions so far. I’m willing to be arrested for this because it’s the most important thing there is.

When I think of all of the issues I care about, climate change will make all of them worse. I really care about homelessness – it will make that worse. I really care about human rights – it will make that worse. I really am willing to get arrested for it. I think a lot of other people are too.

Brexit is obviously an issue which is going to have a big impact on my life, but when there’s such a massive, global crisis looming, it almost feels like it’s a distraction. We’ve got twelve years to save the planet and the Brexit negotiations will probably take that long to wrap. When you see the massive resources that are being put into Brexit negotiations and preparations for if there’s a No Deal, it just seems crazy. We could be putting all those resources into averting climate change.

What I’d like to see, in 2019, is the Extinction Rebellion key demands happen. A commitment to zero carbon emissions by 2025 would be a step in the right direction from the UK government. As a rich country, our government and us, as the public, have to take the lead in trying to avert the climate breakdown. I think creating fair climate policy is also a democratic issue.

This is the first time I’ve ever got involved in any direct action – for two reasons. Firstly, the UN climate change report had an impact on me and, secondly, I think Extinction Rebellion feels genuinely different. It feels like we’ve been signing petitions and writing to MPs for years and this is fresh and new and it exciting. We’ve tried all the non-disruptive methods. I think it’s time to try disruptive methods.

For a while I wasn’t optimistic about the future. Hearing, over the years, all the evidence and reports about climate change does make you cynical and it makes you want to switch off, but I think, after joining Extinction Rebellion and other groups, I’ve stopped feeling miserable or cynical. I felt the same about homelessness but then I started volunteering at Shelter. I think working together with other people really does make you feel better about it. I think the best way to not feel miserable about these things is to do something about it alongside other people."


Callum Lynch, 22

"2019 is the year that Scotland has the opportunity to fundamentally reshape what a childhood can be for people who are or have grown up in care. I went into care when I was 11 and while that meant I was saved from the neglect that I lived in, it also meant spending the rest of my childhood surrounded by legal processes and professionalism.

I had staff, not parents. I lived in a unit, not a home. I was physically restrained by the people who looked after me when it was deemed I wasn’t being compliant. I was part of routine conversations about whether it was a good idea for me to live in the same place as my brother, even though he was the only person who understood my life.

I hear versions of this still, 10 years on, compounded by the fact that young people still don’t have the right to independent advocacy in legal meetings where enormous decisions are made about their life. Hope has, for many, felt like something hard to find in 2019. I have felt like a bit of an anomaly this year because I have relished political conversations.

Having spent the year campaigning and speaking to politicians from every party, I know that while there are fundamental disagreements about our constitutional make-up, there is political will to do something different for care experienced people. I believe that our politicians want something revolutionary to happen for those are or have been looked after by the state. "

Erin McAuley, 21

“A lot of our lives are very precarious. Although there’s a lot more opportunity there’s little security or stability. A lot of the jobs that young people are facing are insecure or are short-term contracts or are not well paid in comparison to the standard of living.

It seems to be that there’s a whole chunk of young people in Britain who are stuck in this precarious cycle of high rents and insecure work, low pay. That includes students. I’ve qualified as a teacher recently, but to sustain myself at uni I’ve worked all my four years. I’m in retail now, on a short-term contract.

It’s not unusual for young people to be in and out of short-term contracts. And something that frustrates me in work is that I’m doing exactly the same work as maybe my colleague younger than me or my colleague older than me, but we’re all getting a different pay based on our age. That’s something that shouldn’t be happening.

I’m chair of the Unite Youth Committee. Within that committee our three big things are the pay disparity among young people, mental health and rent. If I could wave a wand in 2019, I would have something done about the price of housing, whether that’s through rent caps or more social housing. But also I would change the world of work, and not have any zero-hour contracts and have wages that people feel they can sustain themselves on.

Mental health is another thing that I would want to solve. There is a mental ill health epidemic and no wonder, given we’ve got an insecure job market, and insecure housing, plus so much more pressure on young people, with Instagram and twitter, to feel validated.

I’ve always campaigned for mental health services, partly because of my own experiences. I went to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) when I was 16 but then I got moved straight to the adult service because there was not a young adult service, and it was just a long waiting list. My magic wand for Scotland for mental health would be to bring in a 16-25 service.”


Bryn Evans, 14

“The thing I most worry about to do with the world right now is Brexit. When the referendum happened, I was hopeful that the vote would go towards Remain so when it got announced that we were going to leave, it shocked me.

A few of my friends are from a variety of different European countries and they are not scared but worried for their future in this country. I think some are just going to leave Scotland and not come back.

The two things I would most hope to happen in 2019 are Brexit not happening or Trump being put out of power.”