Teen challenges party leaders on key issue of climate change

Activist Dylan Hamilton, from West Lothian, insisted young people were 'very, very angry' about this issue.

Teen challenges party leaders on key issue of climate change PA Ready

A teenage climate campaigner has accused Scotland’s political leaders of failing to do what is necessary to tackle the environment crisis.

Activist Dylan Hamilton, from West Lothian, insisted young people were “very, very angry” about this issue, telling First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and others: “We are trying to knock down your doors.”

The teenager made the remarks in an election debate focused on the issues of the environment and climate change that was organised by YouthLink.

The youngster has been missing school on Fridays for more than two years, taking part in the School Strike for Climate protest sparked by fellow teen Greta Thunberg.

The teenager told how he first went on strike from school in February 2019, saying he had done this “every single Friday ever since”.

He told political leaders taking part in the virtual debate: “I want you to take a second to process what that actually means – every single Friday for 123 weeks consecutively I have refused to focus on my education and instead dealt with a problem you should have dealt with.

“You are still not dealing with it. Young people don’t agree you have done what is necessary either.”

SNP leader Sturgeon took part in the online debate, along with Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie and Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie.

The teenager told them: “I want to show you all we are very, very angry. We are trying to knock down your doors. I have sacrificed my education and having a normal childhood to pressure you to fix a problem that we have known about for a decade before I was born.

“This is my future life and it’s the lives of people around the world right now. You should not be inspired by us, you should be angry and upset.

“This is my Highers year, during a global pandemic and I have a chronic illness. I should have enough to worry about.”

He spoke out during the Climate Hot Seat event, which was organised by young people aged 13-32 representing seven youth organisations in Scotland.

Sturgeon responded it was right for young people to “bang down our doors” as she pledged she would not “pass the buck” on tackling climate change.

The SNP leader insisted: “We need to act. This is a pivotal moment. When things fall apart you can choose how you put them back together.

“We need to prioritise an investment-led green recovery era and tackling inequalities. Words are easy but hold us to account on our actions.”

Ross, meanwhile, accepted there was a “lot of work to do” on the issue.

The Tory leader said: “We have to see and deliver meaningful outcomes at Cop26 in Glasgow this year and young people will play a big part in making that a success.

“There is no doubt that we have a lot of work to do as it looks like we have let you down for too long.”

Sarwar said: “I know young people are impatient, fizzing and angry. We need young people’s voices to be front and centre in climate change, in teaching the true history of our country, and necessary future skills.

“We need to ensure the climate is at the heart of our national recovery.”

Rennie thanked the young people who had taken part for “being very blunt with us”.

The Lib Dem said: “We need to make sure we contribute to the sustainable development of our country if we are going to have a planet for future generations.”

Harvie told the youngsters: “It can create a lot of anxiety to face up to the challenges that your generation has been left to face.”

The Green added: “This moment is an incredible opportunity. We need to invest in the future and reshape our society. The Green Manifesto will investment in renewables, warm homes, public transport, restoring nature, ensuring we have a fair and equal society.”

Speaking after the debate, Emily Beever, senior development officer at YouthLink Scotland, said young people had been “energised to question party leaders about the climate and nature emergencies”.

She added: “This hustings shows young people care deeply about the actions of politicians affecting their future and are ready and able to hold them accountable for their decisions.”

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