THIS past Wednesday the Scottish Government led a debate in parliament to look back and celebrate our 2018 Year of Young People. With thousands of young Scots joining the climate strikes today, it’s vital that we listen to – and act on – what they have to say, regardless of the “theme of the year”.

I should say that the Year of Young People was an excellent initiative and I commend the government for it. On many levels we saw increased engagement and young people being given the opportunity to lead. However, it will only truly be successful if the structural and cultural changes made in 2018 to include more young people lasts for the long term.

That’s why it would be wrong for politicians and society at large to slap ourselves on the back and act as if all is well. We must all take responsibility for the consequences of our actions for Scotland’s young people.

A quarter of a million children – one in four – in this country live in poverty. Across the UK it is four million and rising. That is a crisis, but frankly, because it has been with us for so long, it is not being attacked with the urgency it justifies. It is a systemic failure and we desperately need new economic and political systems that are set up to deliver the transformational change that our society is more than capable of. Much of that does come with independence but much else doesn’t need to wait.

Young people face a world quite unlike what the generations before us faced. We’re set to be the first generation in modern history to earn less over our working lives than our parents – and those working lives will be longer. The average person my age already earns the equivalent of £8000 less than those in the previous generation.

Over a million people across the UK are on zero-hours contracts – about six times as many as in 2010. They’re disproportionately young – and homelessness charities like Centrepoint have been quite clear about the link between these exploitative contracts and young people becoming homeless.

But the greatest generational injustice of all is the one playing out right now with our climate.

Today, thousands of young people across Scotland will join hundreds of thousands of others across the world, walking out of school, college and university to protest not just that governments and corporations have failed to stop the climate crisis, but that they are the very ones who have caused it.

Young people are rebelling against those who sold their future off for the sake of short-term profits. They are striking against the greed and selfishness of those most responsible and the intransigence of those who knew better but failed to stop them.

I’ll be supporting the School Strike 4 Climate because this fight is as much mine as theirs.

If by my 35th birthday we have not radically transformed our society and got this climate crisis under control it will be too late. That’s why these young climate strikers are rejecting incrementalism. They want immediate and fundamental change. They won’t compromise on keeping fossil fuels in the ground. They will not stop – and nor will we.

Last month was the hottest February on record here. It was also the month we got the latest round of Scottish transport statistics – showing car and plane use up and bus and bike use down. That’s not a coincidence – our world is beginning to break down. Its effects may just be beginning to be widely acknowledged here now, but that is from a position of privilege. For the teenage climate refugees I met in Lampedusa, for the children whose hometowns have burned down in California, and for those who died this week in floods in Malawi, this is not an abstract threat for the future, it is an existential threat today.

They, as well as those taking part in protests today, have no time for backslapping politicians. And in their eyes every new motorway project or every public handout to an oil company is a moral failure. They do not have time for that.

We need nothing less than wholesale transformation. We need a jobs-rich Green New Deal which lifts people out of poverty with decent, lasting jobs. We need a public transport revolution which young people can afford to be part of. And we need the courage to think beyond the next electoral cycle – and there are only two of those left before climate breakdown becomes unstoppable.

Across the political divide, we are all united by our commitment to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up. But let us also be united by the courage to stand up and do what we know needs done to save our world.