Across cities and towns the length of the UK they marched in the 
streets in their thousands yesterday, waving home-made placards, making their young voices heard, demanding change. 

Classrooms across Scotland lay empty as school pupils walked out 
in a new wave of global youth-led protests against what is levelled as politicians’ inaction over climate change.

Organisers of Youth Strike 4 Climate said gatherings took place 
in more than 60 towns and cities, with an estimated 15,000 taking part.

Mounted police had to be deployed in some areas, including  Parliament Square, London, and an oil tanker was surrounded elsewhere as tempers rose.

Noisy protests also filled streets in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Cambridge and Brighton as speakers rallied to their cause. More protests are to follow next month.

Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the actions, but that put her at direct odds with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who hailed the protests as a “cause for optimism, in an often dark world, that young people are taking a stand on climate change”.

While Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government was a “world leader” in acting on the climate emergency and added the urgency of the issue meant “it is right we are 
all challenged to do more and that we hear the voice of the next generation”.
In Glasgow, more than 250 students protested while on “strike” from attending school.

The Herald:

Photo: Robert Perry.

While the bulk of the demonstrators were school children in their uniforms and university students, parents and their younger siblings also attended in apparent support.

Protesters waved banners and placards and shouted chants about climate justice and overuse of fossil fuels.

The strike was organised by a collection of youth environmental groups. It was inspired by the protest of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish student who took days off school to lobby her government to introduce legislation to reduce carbon emissions.

She  hit out yesterday at Mrs May, saying on social media that “political leaders have wasted 30 years of inaction” on climate change.

The UK Student Climate Network, one of the strike’s organising groups, lists four demands on its website.

It calls for the Government to “declare a climate change emergency and prioritise the protection of life on Earth”, reform the curriculum to teach students about climate change, communicate the severity of the “ecological crisis” to the public, and grant the vote to under-16s. 

The Herald:

Photo: Robert Perry.

One 13-year-old at yesterday’s protest in George Square, who attends Glasgow Gaelic School, told The Herald: “It’s like what the wee lassie in Sweden said. Why study if our future is going to be ruined by fossil fuels? 

“We don’t want our world being brought down by fossil fuels, because they’re using up everything that we are meant to have for our futures,” 
he said.

“So when we’re a lot older, maybe 40, we’re going to need all these resources that they’re wasting for our future. But if we don’t have those resources then the world could be in a bad place.” 

Campaigners chanted songs and waved placards. Trina Ryan brought her two children, aged seven and five, to the protest.

“I told them about Greta Thunberg and we talked about her and how she felt she could make a difference,” she said.

“I said that today is a day where they’re all going to do it, in the whole of the UK – they’re all going to do it. Would you like to do it too? And they did. They joined in with the singing a wee bit."

Ms Ryan, 39, has sent a letter to her children’s school to explain that their absence should be authorised on the grounds of special circumstances.

The Herald:

Photo: Robert Perry.

Yesterday’s strike was supported by the Labour, SNP and Green parties in Scotland, while Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman criticised the students.

 “Everybody wants young people to be engaged in the issues that affect them most so that we can build a brighter future for all of us,” he said.

“But it is important to emphasise that disruption increases teachers’ workloads and wastes lesson time that teachers have carefully prepared for.

“That time is crucial for young people precisely so that they can develop into the top scientists, engineers and advocates that we need to help tackle this problem.”

The Scottish Greens yesterday sent an open letter to school leaders in Scotland asking them not to punish students for leaving school to attend the strike.

MSP Claudia Beamish,  Scottish Labour’s environment spokeswoman, said: “The school pupils and students joining the strikes over climate change are an inspiration.

“They are making their voices heard and telling us all that we must act before it is too late for them and future generations.

The Herald:

Photo: Robert Perry.

“These strikes provide the perfect opportunity for the Scottish Government to back 
Scottish Labour’s commitment to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the latest. 

“Young people should demand to meet their politicians, not least those who do not seem to want to fully come to terms with the urgency of the climate change dangers we all face.”

Jamie Stone, MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross and the Liberal Democrats’ Scottish Affairs spokesman, said: “Climate change poses a serious threat to the future of our planet and leading scientists have recently warned we only have 12 years to make changes or risk major climate catastrophe.

“These strikes are a call for everyone to take climate change seriously and I am impressed by the commitment and democratic engagement of these young people.

The Herald:

Photo: Robert Perry.

“It is these students’ futures we are gambling with when we refuse to make the changes necessary and that is why I, alongside the Liberal Democrats, support their strike today.”

A number of local politicians, including Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer and Jon Molyneux, the party’s councillor for Pollokshields, Glasgow, attended the protest in George Square.

Mr Molyneux said: “I think what is going on here is inspirational. These are young people who are deeply concerned about their future and they want to take action and inspire other people to action.

“We should be proud of what they’re doing. We should respect them and I certainly don’t think we should be taking any sort of sanction against young people involved in these demonstrations because I think they are necessary.”

School Strikes 4 Climate Action, the larger global group that has organised protests across across Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Australia, began with the protests of Ms Thunberg. She spoke harshly to world leaders at the United Nations in December, and berated the world’s business elite at the Davos conference in Switzerland last month. 

The group has organised another global protest on March 15.