Schoolchildren are being “treated like criminals” after councillors banned them from marching down Princes Street during next week’s climate protest – with teenage organisers threatened with arrest.
The city council’s licensing sub-committee has officially banned youngsters from setting foot on Princes Street next Friday – despite the authority declaring a climate emergency and its education committee granting pupils one day to take action without any punishment. Police Scotland raised no official objection to the event but council roads officials did after organisers refused to divert the route from Princes Street.
Organisers are expecting tens of thousands to take part in the event next Friday – with young demonstrators set to gather at Middle Meadow Walk at 11am. Youngsters want to march down Forrest Road, George IV Bridge, the Mound, Princes Street, North Bridge, High Street, Canongate, Horse Wynd and to the Scottish Parliament – but no decision has been made yet as to whether they will proceed with the route.
READ MORE: Edinburgh schoolgirl tells councillor to do homework on climate emergency after he tells her he's 'sceptical' of the science
Sandy Boyd, 15, representing the protesters, said he was threatened with “being lifted” by officials, following the decision, if Princes Street is used.
He added: “They have declared a climate emergency and they are not acting on it – they are going back on their decision. I really hope history judges them for it.”
Green Cllr Susan Rae called for the committee to allow the demonstrators to be able to use Princes Street – as is done for Hogmanay celebrations and the festival fireworks – while Make Poverty History and a women’s suffrage celebration was allowed permission to use the route.
READ MORE: Youth climate strikers blast Edinburgh Council plans to limit absence permission
She said: “We seem to be in an unprecedented situation where they have actually banned them from going onto Princes Street. We have allowed orange marches but we have actually banned children from setting foot onto Princes Street.
“The council has pledged to support climate change as a priority – this is not a good way to do that.
“I’m extremely disappointed and actually quite alarmed the council is treating schoolchildren like criminals. If the police come for the schoolchildren, they will have to go through me first.”
In a report to councillors, officials warned that closing Princes Street would mean tram services were stopped – costing the authority around £15,000 in damages, as well as “a large impact on how people can travel to and from Waverley Station and would lead to subsequent disruption to rail services”.
The report adds: “It is likely that this disruption will continue for several hours after the procession has ended.”
READ MORE: Youth strikers want to march down Edinburgh's Princes Street in protest against climate emergency
Councillors voted four to two in favour of banning the march from Princes Street. The two Labour councillors on the committee, Cllr Scott Arthur and Cllr Donald Wilson, did not attend the meeting.
Cllr Arthur has previously supported the protesters using Princes Street.
He said: “I tend to attend where the meeting is on a Monday and my colleagues cover other days.
“I am gutted that nobody from the Labour group was there to support them today – I feel like we have let them down.”
Licensing convener, Cllr Catherine Fullerton said: “Committee must take account of the concerns and note your unwillingness to change the route and use the proposed route.
“This means that Princes Street can not be used due to the significant disruption.”