Highlands & Islands

Children in Scotland on strike to 'save the planet'

Image caption The Ullapool pupils were joined by family and friends for the UK-wide strike

Pupils across Scotland have been holding strikes outside their school gates demanding world leaders take action on climate change.

Young people in the Highlands, Glasgow and Edinburgh have been among those taking part in the UK-wide Schools 4 Climate Action one-day protests.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has tweeted her support of the pupils' "taking a stand on climate change".

The day of action has been inspired by 15-year-old Swede Greta Thunberg.

Image copyright Noel Hawkins
Image caption Meghan Ross, Ella and Finlay Pringle have been staging a strike each Friday since 14 December

Some children in the Highlands have been staging strikes for weeks.

Finlay Pringle, 11, his sister Ella and their friend Megan Ross, both nine, have been holding hour-long walkouts on Fridays in Ullapool since 14 December.

Holly Gillibrand, 13, has taken similar action at Fort William's Lochaber High School since January.

In the Highlands, the local authority said the hour's strike is recorded as an unauthorised absence, but it incurs no punishment.

Finlay, Ella and Megan are pupils at Ullapool Primary School in Wester Ross.

Every Friday during the school week they have staged an hour-long strike from between 08:45 and 09:45. They were joined by parents and friends for the UK-wide strike.

'I skip school to demand climate change action'

Image caption Holly protests outside her secondary school in Fort William each Friday morning

Holly Gillibrand, 13, from Kinlocheil, has been holding an hour-long strike on Friday mornings at Lochaber High School in Fort William since January.

"It's a small price to pay for standing up for our planet," she told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme.

"If you get a detention, that's nothing to how we will suffer in future if nothing is done.

"I want to get Scottish leaders to take climate change seriously and [know] that they're destroying my future."

Read more.

"Last Friday was the worst," said Ella. "It was raining and so windy."

But she said: "We are doing this because I want all the countries in the world to sign up to The Paris Agreement (a global response to climate change) and actually start doing what it says.

"Please march, or swim later," Ella added in reference to the threat of rising sea levels.

Image caption Young people across Scotland have been involved in the UK-wide day of action
Image caption Placards at a strike in Edinburgh

Her brother Finlay, who last year challenged TV presenter Bear Grylls about his involvement with a diving with sharks aquarium experience, said some governments were ignoring scientific data on climate change.

He said: "My feeling is, if the scientists aren't listened to then what is the point in studying to be a scientist."

Megan added: "It would be better if we had more wind power and solar panels to stop climate change."

She said action had to be taken to better protect Earth, adding: "We all have to remember there is no planet B."

Image copyright Noel Hawkins
Image caption The Ullapool pupils joined by a supporter during one of their hour-long walkouts

Finlay and Ella's mother, Rach, said she was "very proud" of the stand her children were taking on climate change.

She said: "They do miss lessons while doing the strikes, Ella spelling tests and Finlay his numbers, but we do both at home."

Ullapool-based Noel Hawkins, of the Scottish Wildlife Trust's Living Sea Project, has been supporting Finlay, Ella, Megan and the children's parents.

He said: "This Friday they will be striking as part of a UK wide strike that involves villages, towns and cities throughout the UK and next month on the 15 March there will be an international strike globally."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Greta Thunberg is the inspiration behind what has become a global movement

Mr Hawkins added: "As someone who works with some of these kids on marine projects, I feel inspired by their passion and dedication to the environment and efforts to try and highlight threats to the future of what will become their planet.

"If adults, businesses and governments were to show an equal level of concern, perhaps we'd see more action happening rather than leaving the next generation with what may actually be the impossible task of trying to repair what their predecessors, us, actually broke."

Image caption The strikes in Scotland are part of a global movement demanding action on climate change

Highland Council said the Ullapool pupils and others who strike have the hour recorded as an unauthorised absence, but no child has been punished for the walkouts.

The local authority said it had adopted strategies to reduce its carbon emissions and be more sustainable.

A spokeswoman said: "Highland Council's programme includes a specific commitment to introduce a range of strategies and plans to support our commitment to sustainability.

"The programme is committed to foster sustainable local communities and to developing a sustainable local workforce.

"The education authority cannot sanction unauthorised absence from school, no matter how well-meaning the intention."

Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer said pupils were striking to "save this world from climate breakdown", and Scottish Labour MSP Claudia Beamish described the young people as an "inspiration".

More on this story