INTERVIEW: Clare Haughey MSP – Minister For Children And Young People

INTERVIEW: Clare Haughey MSP – Minister For Children And Young People

Cherry Brennan & Victory Ekpekurede

On Wednesday, we interviewed Clare Haughey MSP to find out what she has been doing during COP26 and how young people are affected by the climate crisis. Clare Haughey is the MSP for Rutherglen and the Minister for Children and Young People since 2021. She was also the Minister for Mental Health from 2018 to 2021.

Where had the minister been that day?

On the day of the interview, the minister had visited Westercraigs Nursery in Dennistoun, where the former Head Teacher had recently won at the Sustainability Awards. The nursery had developed a lot of outdoor spaces for 3-and-4-year-old children, which could be used in all weathers outside. The area had previously been a car park, however, they asked the children what they wanted in their playground and used their ideas to create a fun place to play. The area has arts and crafts spaces, an outdoor kitchen, mud kitchen and place for growing food.

The minister highlighted that it was really interesting to see how they have used their urban environment to allow children to interact with nature. For example, they used a large metal tub of ice cubes and polar bears to learn about habitat and melting ice caps.

What else has she been doing during COP?

The minister has been extremely busy over COP. Before the interview, she was working with many primary schools (such as Stonelaw, Trinity, Rutherglen and Cathkin and Calderwood Primary Schools) in order to talk about how they can all reduce their own carbon footprints.

The minister has engaged with a range of fun initiatives over COP as well, such as a Lego Build in Strathclyde University, which got schools throughout Glasgow to consider ideas on how to improve the change the climate for the better. She even got to catch a fashion event about sustainable (lasts a long time) clothing hosted by the YMCA at an IMAX theatre.

Why the Scottish Government thinks it’s important to hear children and young people on Climate Change

The minister believes that the young people of Scotland already know lots about climate change, but she says that we need to have our voices heard at the highest levels of government. She says that her job is to make sure that our concerns can be heard for not just climate change, but for all parts of our lives.

The minister on moving forward after COP

When asked about her views on what she thinks will happen going forward after COP26, the minister stated that even though there had been a really big focus on the climate crisis in these last two weeks, this can’t then be the end – we can’t pack up and go home back to business as usual. 

She emphasised the need to follow the momentum of COP and take advantage of the passion of the last two weeks when continuing to plan the next phase in our journey. She also mentioned that Young Scot and Youth Link will continue to drive forward local programmes and activities.

Victory and Cherry interviewing Clare Haughey

How do you think climate anxiety affects young people’s mental health?

The minister stated that she was very interested in the impact the climate crisis has on young people’s mental health, especially as she used to be the Minister for Mental Health. She highlighted that what adults need to do is listen and respond to the worries young people have whilst also taking on board their ideas. She also mentioned that adults must show that they are making steps and taking these conversations forward into actions.

What would you like to see come from COP26 to show it has been a success?

Some of the key things Clare Haughey mentioned that she would like to see come out of COP26 are:

  • evidence of progress amongst world leaders
  • putting the promises made this week into action
  • real solutions being actioned
  • behaviour change globally and in Scotland especially
  • a real legacy so that we can point to things in years to come to say “that came about because of changes or discussion in Glasgow”

The minister also emphasised how great it was to the friendship and teamwork at COP and to witness people from all over the world creating bonds based on common goals.

What do you think the priorities should be for Lanarkshire residents and students moving forward?

Local councillors should continue to listen to young people, support their wants for change while taking action on issues, even if it’s just something small. Promoting recycling, more education on the climate itself, promoting active travel and cycle lanes, as well as welcoming green industries into our communities to make our climate better are all things that the Minister thinks should happen going forward.

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