Scottish Youth Climate Strike & Young Friends of the Earth Scotland

Press Release

Young people across Scotland are protesting to demand a plan that delivers a just and green recovery from coronavirus. On Thursday (23/7/20) evening, banners appeared in key locations across Scotland calling for a radical response to Scotland’s recovery from COVID-19 that puts people and environment before profit.

The banners in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Oban, kick off a week of action demanding the Government do more to address youth employment, tackle inequality, protect public services including vital mental health support and commit to the necessary climate action.

Free to use photos of the stunts available https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1D2-akJ5ghxTdAc8jU7r1uHRqCOdX8fN_?usp=sharing

The call from young people will heap further pressure on the Scottish Government as they prepare to respond to their Economic Advisors Report recommendations delivered by Benny Higgins in mid June.

Research paints an alarming picture of the impact of coronavirus on young people:

  • 1 million under-25s face unemployment, the Resolution Foundation warned [1]
  • The number of people aged 18-24 claiming Universal Credit or Jobseeker’s Allowance doubled between March and July [2]
  • 80% of respondents to a survey of young people said that the coronavirus pandemic had made their mental health worse.[3]
  • Young people are half as likely to own homes as the previous generation, and represent a high portion of people in the private rented sector struggling hardest with financial hit of the pandemic [4]

The action is a collaborative effort between a number of Scottish youth groups including Young Friends of the Earth Scotland [5] and Scottish Youth Climate Strike [6]. They are highlighting the importance of a just recovery for young people:

Daisy (24), a waitress from Glasgow
“Young people are most likely to be the ones working in the hardest hit sectors of retail, hospitality and leisure. We are also more likely to be working on zero-hours contracts, which are precarious positions, and often have to have multiple part-time jobs to make up one income.

“Even if these sectors reopen, our hours are likely to have been cut, and with social distancing, there will be less customers so there is less money from tips which workers in hospitality rely heavily upon to boost wages. We need a plan for a just recovery which can address these issues and provide decent work and decent incomes for all.”

Issy (22), a student from Oban:
‘Youth in rural places often feel distanced from the centres of power and can easily feel like their only option is to work in cities. We need more green jobs to help rural people and show the youth there is a future for them here.’

Rufus (22), a tenant from Edinburgh and member of Living Rent:
“Rent is too high. Faced with a job market that can only offer stagnant wages and a housing market in which rents are increasing year on year it is evident that there needs to be concrete change to the state of our housing in Scotland.

Rent has been too high for decades with tenants forced to live paycheck to paycheck with exploitative and unaffordable rents but with this current economic crisis this is set to reach an unmanageable level. Our recovery from this crisis must contain protections for tenants and this has to include rent controls.”

The group believes COVID-19 has highlighted the necessity to put the needs of people and the needs of our planet above economic growth, and that the recovery process can be an opportunity to put wellbeing and sustainability at the heart of decision-making.

Kirsty (23), a student nurse from Glasgow, said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to strengthen our public services and protect our frontline workers, especially the NHS. Recovery plans need to guarantee an improved universal healthcare system that is free and accessible to all. This should include mental health services which are of particular importance as we see a rise in mental health problems amongst young people.”

Cat (17) a school striker from Edinburgh:
“We want a future which is free from inequality and the climate crisis. We have the chance right now to make radical systemic changes to transform our economy and tackle these issues. Instead we are seeing bailouts handed to big polluters. Young people are going to be the ones who suffer the most from the effects of climate change and our peers across the world are already facing massive environmental destruction. The Scottish Government needs to act now.”

Young people are calling for others to part in the campaign by taking their ‘Sheets to the Streets’ and displaying their own banners made from old bedsheets or other materials during July. They are encouraging these messages to be hung from balconies, put it in a window, or displayed in your community.
It will help to show the Scottish Government that they want a green recovery that puts people first, and one which ensures resilience to future crises, including the climate emergency.

Notes to Editors

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-52555978
  2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-53430775
  3. https://youngminds.org.uk/about-us/reports/coronavirus-impact-on-young-people-with-mental-health-needs/
  4. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/home-ownership-young-people-figures-private-renting-costs-a8982036.html
  5. Young Friends of the Earth are a grassroots network of young activists aged 16-30 from across Scotland working collectively for environmental and social justice.
  6. Scottish Youth Climate Strike is a youth-led group of students fighting for climate justice in Scotland. They strike from school every Friday.
  7. These youth organisations are among over 80 civil society organisations campaigning together for a just and green recovery from coronavirus. In June, they co-signed a letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon calling for the prioritisation of 5 key areas:
    Essential public services for people, not profit; tackling inequality by redistributing wealth;
    providing new funds to transform our society and economy to meet Scotland’s Fair Share of climate emissions cuts and greatly enhance biodiversity;
    strengthening democracy and human rights during these crisis;
    Offering solidarity across borders by proactively supporting an international Coronavirus and climate emergency response.The full letter can be read at https://foe.scot/resource/just-green-recovery-letter-first-minister/