Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists blocked traffic in Edinburgh on Monday, causing disruption to businesses. Five activists glued themselves to the road.
The protests were part of a week of events centred on a camp outside the Scottish Parliament building, set up by activists on Sunday.
Monday was the main day of events as the Scottish Parliament was set to debate its Climate Change Bill the next day.
Central to the Bill is making the Scottish economy carbon neutral by 2045.
XR has demanded this be brought forward to 2025. It points to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommendation that global temperatures must not rise more than 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels. The IPCC puts the deadline for this at 2030.
And, as activist Scott pointed out, even this is “likely to be a conservative estimate”. The Scottish Parliament bill is based on recommendations from the Committee for Climate Change, which advises the British parliament.
XR activist Lauren told Socialist Worker that this “started from what was acceptable to the Tories and what could be sold to big business”.
“It should have started with considering what we need to do to stop extinction,” she said. “It concentrates on these miraculous ‘technofixes’ to the crisis.
“But the majority remain untested.”
Earlier on Monday some 200 people marched from Edinburgh Castle down the main Royal Mile street to the Scottish Parliament building in Holyrood.
Chants of, “Tory, Labour, SNP—got to keep it fossil free!” echoed around the city’s old town, with activists blocking junctions briefly as they went.
And on the Tuesday morning activists glued themselves to the road outside the Scottish Parliament.
Although everyone is encouraged to join XR actions, there is a focus on people getting arrested.
But limitations on legal aid means that fewer people may feel comfortable volunteering as “arrestable” as legal fees rise above £1,000 on top of fines.
And XR’s strategy of maximum disruption has provoked increasing hostility from the state.
Activists are considering what action must be taken if the
Scottish Parliament refuses to adopt the 2025 carbon neutrality target.
“In that case we need to have escalation,” argued protester Daniel. “The amount and frequency of action should increase. We need to up the ante.”
Scottish government must do more on climate
Protests in Scotland come as the Scottish government dithers on dealing with climate change.
Scottish climate change minister Roseanna Cunningham has set the date of a planned implementation of a zero carbon economy at 2045.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) is calling for the date to be moved forward to 2025 to stop catastrophic climate change.
Climate activist Sharon joined protests in Edinburgh on Sunday and explained why the situation is so urgent.
“The message is simple—we either do something now, or we lose everything,” she said. “The stakes could not be higher.”
But the scale of the action over climate change has made Sharon more optimistic.
“Something has grabbed people big time on a worldwide basis,” she said. “It’s renewed my energy.
“I remain hopeful—the more pressure and action we can bring to bear, the more our demands become achievable.
“I remain hopeful—the more pressure and action we can bring to bear, the more our demands become achievable.Sharon, Extinction Rebellion Scotland
“I’ve been trying to convince people for years, but now I think we need to take more radical action. I’m willing to risk my job, to get the sack, and I do not take that lightly.”
Vincent from Glasgow added, “I was on some of the London protests and today has the same sort of energy.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you dress like—you are welcome here.”
He also argued that new forms of protesting and activities are important “to keep the interest level high”.
XR activist Jim said, “Governments can be slow and cautious things.
“History shows us that governments only allow radical change when people rise up and demand it.”
What is a Citizens’ Assembly?
The idea of a Citizens' Assembly is often referenced in XR meetings and on demonstrations.
The third of XR’s three central demands is that “the government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice”.
XR activist Jim said an assembly could be “like jury duty—a random selection of people to represent Scotland”.
“They wouldn’t need to be experts, they would have access to experts and unbiased opinions,” he said.
Other activists had different ideas. Eva told Socialist Worker that the key to a successful Citizens Assembly is “legitimacy”.
“Ideally the government would set them up as this confers legitimacy,” she said.
“Once the government has agreed it will happen, the process is taken over by external organisations. After this an advisory group would be set up to determine what the assembly would look like.” Eva said that “oil and gas companies might be a part” of this.
“It’s unavoidable there will be people we don’t agree with giving expert advice,” she said, arguing that XR doesn’t “get to determine what the group looks like—then it would lack legitimacy”.
Relying on the state and corporations to set up a body that would be a challenge to their power is fatal. And there are limits to how far the state will challenge the interests of fossil fuel bosses.
Extinction Rebellion launches actions across Britain
The opening night of the Royal Opera House (ROH) Big Screen season was overshadowed on Tuesday of last week by anger against its sponsor—oil giant BP.
As the pre-event warm-up began, over 100 protesters emerged out of the audience in London’s Trafalgar Square with banners, chanting, “Drop BP” and, “climate justice”.
The protest, organised by Extinction Rebellion, was one of several recently to target BP’s strategy of using sponsorship of the arts to clean up its filthy image. “BP, we haven’t forgotten the Gulf of Mexico,” read one banner, in reference to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
As the ROH began its main event, screening the Romeo and Juliet ballet live, XR rebels staged an alternative “Petroleo and Fueliet” tragedy.
Rebels in Lewisham blocked the main roads in the south east London borough on Friday of last week in protest at local air pollution. Protesters stopped traffic on three central arteries as part of the “Let Lewisham Breathe” campaign.
Extinction Rebellion member Lorna Greenwood said, “Lewisham suffers badly with air pollution and it’s something that really unites people.
“It doesn’t matter what job you do or how old you are, people have to breathe the same air.”
Extinction Rebellion activists joined school strikers to perform a stunt against airport expansion in Bristol last week. Rebels created a huge “extinction symbol” logo with their bodies on the South Downs, after sharing a picnic.
Activists in York are preparing for a “demand a future” event which will thrash out ideas on how to achieve a zero carbon society.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) members planned a citizens’ assembly on Friday of this week to decide on proposals that are set to be presented to York council.