Protests at COP26 should be done ‘respectfully’, says Patrick Harvie

The Scottish Greens co-leader said people can demonstrate an appetite for change via peaceful protests.

Protests at COP26 should be done ‘respectfully’, says Patrick Harvie STV News
Scottish Greens co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie were at Dynamic Earth for their party's conference.

By Lewis McKenzie and Ewan Petrie

Patrick Harvie has urged those taking part in protests at COP26 to do so respectfully, as he described the climate summit as a “critical opportunity” for change.

The Scottish Greens co-leader said that peaceful protests can be part of how people demonstrate an appetite for climate action.

But, the Scottish Government minister was not drawn on whether he supports the blockading of major roads, as has been seen in recent weeks in London by Insulate Britain activists.

“I don’t think there’s been a successful political movement that hasn’t involved multiple forms of strategy and tactic, from parliamentary work through to academic and campaigning work, lobbying, and direct action,” he told STV News.

“That direct action should be non-violent, it should be peaceful and it should be respectful, but, yeah, it will also be creative.”

Last month, the head of Police Scotland’s operation for COP26 warned against any attempt to block the Kingston Bridge during the Glasgow summit.

Assistant chief constable Bernard Higgins – the gold commander for the COP26 policing operation – said any such demonstrations would endanger the lives of road users and the protesters themselves.

The Scottish Greens co-leader was appointed as a Scottish Government minister. (STV News)
The Scottish Greens co-leader was appointed as a Scottish Government minister. (STV News)

Harvie acknowledged that protests will be part of the disruption brought by the UN summit.

“The COP itself will of course be disruptive, it’ll disrupt transport, it’s already disrupting the housing market with a great many people being price-gouged effectively for housing at the moment because some landlords are holding their properties back in the hope of getting thousands of pounds a night for it,” he said.

“So, yeah, COP will be disruptive and that will include some of the protests around it.

“But, really, it is also the critical opportunity to make change and I would encourage everybody who cares about this to take part in some of the meetings that will happen in communities right across Scotland about this.

“And if you want to take part in protest – peaceful, non-violently – that’s fantastic too. It should be done respectfully.”

Asked whether he would support the blockading of major roads, he said: “I don’t think it’s for me to say that one particular tactic or another is right or wrong.

“The idea that we simply accept that a fossil-fuel driven transport tactic is more important than the issue of climate change, I wouldn’t agree with that.

“I think it’s very clear that the urgency and the appetite, the public appetite, for radical, transformational change on climate, the necessary change that’s going to give us a decent chance of survival on this world, that needs to be demonstrated.

“And protest, peaceful, non-violent direct action, can be part of how we demonstrate that appetite.”