As far afield as Edinburgh and the edge of the Arctic Circle, they united.

Tens of thousands of pupils skipped class to take to the streets for a mass protest against what they see as global government failure to take sufficient action against climate change. 

The banners were blunt: "Stop denying our earth is dying", "Change the politics not the climate" and "If the world were a bank, it would have been saved."

The co-ordinated "school strikes" were inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, who began holding solitary demonstrations outside the Swedish parliament last year. 

Miss Thunberg, who was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, was cheered for her frank message to leaders at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in January, when she told them: "I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day."

Yesterday, she told a rally in Stockholm that the world faces an "existential crisis, the biggest crisis humanity ever has faced, and still it has been ignored for decades".

HeraldScotland: Colin Mearns/NewsquestColin Mearns/Newsquest

Since her campaign went viral on social media, the weekly protests have snowballed to such an extent that yesterday, pupils in nearly 100 countries walked out of classes to protest. 

In Britain alone, organisers estimate 50,000 people took part in events in 150 British towns and cities, including London, Brighton, Leeds, Manchester, Cambridge and Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow

In Scotland, walkouts also took place in towns and cities including East Kilbride, Coatbridge, Stirling, Inverkeithing, Peebles, Fort William, Forres, St Andrews, Inverness, Ullapool, South Uist, Aberdeen, Aberdour, Kirkwall and Eigg. 

A number of Scottish councils said pupils would not face punishment if they took part in the protests with parental permission. 

Read more: Councils urged not to punish pupils for climate strike

But Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said missing school to protest over climate change should not be condoned. 

Mr Barton labelled the protests "fruitless" and said children should be learning in school about why climate change matters and how political processes work. 

Speaking at ASCL’s annual conference in Birmingham, he said it would be reasonable to expect students to make up any missed work during lunchtime detentions. 

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said that while it was great that pupils were taking an interest in an issue that was so important in the UK, and around the world, they “should be at school”.


However, politicians including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Environment Secretary Michael Gove offered support to young climate strikers - who are also backed by scientists, academics and campaigners.

Young people gathered in Parliament Square, London, chanting, “This is what democracy looks like”. 

Read more: Scottish schoolboy hits out at EU over global warming

Anna Taylor, 17, from north London - co-founder of the UK Student Climate Network, said the Government was failing to recognise the severity of the crisis. 

“They’re failing to make environmental reform and environmental policy a priority, they focusing on economic policy and Brexit and failing to address the climate crisis facing us.” 

In Glasgow, Marianne Mylchreest, 20, a Glasgow University student who joined the protest in George Square, said: “We’re out here saying that there’s not enough being done so we’re trying to get people to actually make a difference. “It’s incredible - schools are coming out, unis are coming out, people that have kids are coming out, there’s dogs here, it’s just great.” 

Six-year-old Anna Arbuckle said she joined the George Square demonstrators “to stop the ice from melting”. 

Scientists have warned for decades that current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are unsustainable, so far with little effect. 

Read more: Pacific islanders plea to Scottish climate strike pupils: Help save our paradise

In December, naturalist Sir David Attenborough made his feelings clear, saying climate change is humanity’s greatest threat in thousands of years. 

Speaking at the opening ceremony of United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Katowice, Poland, he said: “Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change. “If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.” 

HeraldScotland: Colin Mearns/NewsquestColin Mearns/Newsquest

Yesterday’s strikes come in the wake of a UN report last year which warned limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, beyond which climate impacts become increasingly severe, requires unprecedented action. 

Now a new report released by the United Nations warns that even emissions cuts outlined in the Paris Agreement won’t be enough to prevent a rise in Arctic temperatures set to raise sea levels across the globe. 

According to the report, even if the world were to meet these benchmarks, temperatures in the Arctic would continue to rise by another 3-5 degrees Celsius by 2050. 

“What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic,’ said Joyce Msuya, UN Environment’s Acting Executive Director. “We have the science; now more urgent climate action is needed to steer away from tipping points that could be even worse for our planet than we first thought.”