Inspirational youth lead the way on climate change - Lorna Slater

Saturday was a big day for Parliament, with the Queen coming to Edinburgh for the opening. As part of the celebration every MSP was allowed to invite a ‘local hero’ who had gone above and beyond for their community.
‘I’m very determined and stubborn’: West Lothian pupil Dylan Hamilton starts a week-long climate protest.‘I’m very determined and stubborn’: West Lothian pupil Dylan Hamilton starts a week-long climate protest.
‘I’m very determined and stubborn’: West Lothian pupil Dylan Hamilton starts a week-long climate protest.

Despite the terrible backdrop, there are so many people that have done so much. After a lot of consideration, I invited Dylan Hamilton. At only 17 Dylan has been instrumental in planning the Fridays for Future school strikes across Edinburgh, calling for action on climate change.

Like many people of his generation, Dylan is terrified about the climate crisis and what it will mean for the future and has done everything he can to make his voice heard as well as those of other young people in Scotland and beyond.

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I was very happy when Dylan agreed to join me, but, unfortunately, he had to cancel at the last minute. Dylan had to get a train to Milan, or rather a series of trains. He was joining Greta Thunberg and thousands of other activists from across the world for the Youth 4 Climate conference event, planning for how to make next month’s COP 26 climate conference in Glasgow count.

Dylan is a very impressive individual, and I am certain that he would have enjoyed the opening ceremony. But if I had to be stood-up for anything I’m very glad that it was a climate action campaign planning day. The climate emergency is the biggest challenge we face, and we cannot be complacent about it.

There are big steps that the Scottish government is taking. We are doubling our onshore wind capacity, expanding marine energy and investing £5 billion in decarbonising and improving our rail network. But we also need is global action, and that is what COP must deliver.

Over the last two years the school strikes have mobilised hundreds of thousands of young people.

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The protests began with Greta Thunberg taking action in Sweden, but they would not have continued without a mass movement of school students from across the world standing together in international solidarity and calling for action.

So many young people have told me how angry they are about the inaction of previous generations of politicians. And they have every right to be. Every day of inaction makes the severity of the steps we must take even greater and more urgent. Had our leaders recognised the scale of the threat when they were first warned then we would be in a very different situation today.

That is why Dylan and I, and thousands of others, will be taking to the streets in Glasgow over the weeks ahead. People from all across the UK and beyond will be meeting and marching in unity, calling for our leaders to ensure that they live up to the urgency of the situation we are in.

For young people like Dylan, this is about more than short-term political calculations. It is about their future. The young people I know want to see change. They prioritise meaning, relationships, experiences and community. They understand the value of working together instead of competing.

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As we face up to the climate crisis, it is a value shift that all of us could learn from. Because it is what we are going to need.

Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity