This blog is written by Emily Beever, Senior Development Officer at YouthLink Scotland.
In the past, young people have often been portrayed as uninterested in elections or apolitical. This couldn’t be further from my experience of supporting a group of 15 young people to organise a national youth environmental hustings in advance of the Scottish Parliament elections.
The Climate Hot Seat project was organised by young people representing seven youth organisations – YouthLink Scotland, Children in Scotland, Scottish Youth Parliament, Fridays for Future Scotland, Teach the Future Scotland, Young Friends of the Earth Scotland and 2050 Climate Group.
The organising group brought together the leaders of the five main Scottish political parties to answer questions submitted by young people on topics such as climate targets, environmental education, and youth voice.
During the event, Dylan, aged 16, one of the young moderators of the event, spoke out about the pressure on young people to take climate action to fill the void left by decision-makers:
“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. If the comments here tonight have shown us anything, it’s that young people don’t agree that you have done what is necessary either.
“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. I should have enough to worry about without having to worry about the possibility of the largest refugee crisis we have ever seen.”
In response, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister and Leader of the Scottish National Party said: “Words are easy but hold us to account on our actions.”
Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie responded:
“You have all made us feel uncomfortable. This is the sharp end and I am grateful for you being very blunt with us. 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.”
During the debate, all five party leaders said they would ban single use plastics and there was agreement that climate education in Scottish schools needed to be put in place as a priority.
When we consider that 96% of young people in Scotland say they are concerned about climate change, politicians need to recognise that young voters will be prioritising parties that take action and won’t be complacent in holding them to account.
Watch The Climate Hot Seat hustings: https://youtu.be/X2NYT73tmPY
Learn more about hosting your own hustings: https://ourbrightfuture.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/OBF_HostAHustings-1.pdf