Edinburgh traffic chaos looms as up to 4000 schoolkids get ready for climate change march

Schoolchildren in the Capital are set to be allowed to skip lessons to take part in a climate crisis march through the city  – as officials warned the demonstration will bring Old Town traffic to a halt.

Monday, 20th May 2019, 7:03 pm
Children protest in Glasgow's George Square. Pic: John Devlin

A Schools Strike for Climate march will be held on Friday (24) afternoon – with Green councillors set to table a motion on Tuesday (21) to ask for approval for students to leave lessons in order to take part. If agreed, children would be granted an “authorised absence”, subject to parental consent.

Permission was approved in March for Edinburgh pupils to take part in a previous protest – as part of a movement of climate awareness and activism from school-pupils across the globe.

The march is set to leave Middle Meadow Walk at 12pm and will travel down Forrest Road, George IV Bridge, before turning down the High Street and Canongate to the Scottish Parliament. The march, which is expected to attract up to 4,000 young protesters, will be accompanied by a piper and a samba band.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

No roads will be officially closed due to insufficient time to put traffic orders in place – and bus routes and traffic in the city centre will be disrupted by the action.

The council’s public safety officer John McNeill, said: “It will affect traffic on George IV Bridge for up to two hours and the same on the Royal Mile.

“Lothian will have to put diversions in place for some time beforehand. The roads authority of the council don’t have time to put any road closures in place.”

Police said a lack of road closures would “make it a challenge” for officers – but resources will be deployed for “rolling road blocks” to manage the march.

Organisers said the march will have 40 stewards, including 31 adults and reassured councillors they “take the issue of public safety very seriously”.

Sandy Boyd, 15, said: “This Friday there’s a global demonstration for climate action.

“We are asking the council to recognise the need for young people to make their feelings known and give their blessing to this march.”

The emergency motion to allow pupils permission to take part in the demonstration, will be tabled at today’s (21) education, children and families committee by Green education spokesperson, Cllr Mary Campbell.

She said: “At the time of the last global climate strike Edinburgh led from the front in recognising and supporting young people in the defining issue of their lifetime. Other councils throughout the UK followed Edinburgh’s lead.

“Two months on, the issue has not gone away so it’s important that the council and schools keep that leadership and get behind young people.”

But Conservative councillors, who opposed an original motion to allow children to skip lessons for a protest in March, will again vote against the request.

Conservative education spokesperson, Cllr Callum Laidlaw, said: “While I sympathise with the many young people who want to demonstrate their support for reduction of carbon emissions, allowing them to regularly miss school in order to participate in marches, that ironically increase emissions due to traffic congestion, does little to fulfil environmental or educational objectives.

“Given pupils were able to take time off to attend protests on 15 March, the Conservatives will not be supporting another unauthorised absence only two months later.”