HAVOC broke out at a crunch council meeting as climate protesters interrupted proceedings with an impassioned plea for action, writes Jack Thomson. 

Members of Extinction Rebellion – an international movement of activists – raised placards and made their voices heard moments after the annual accounts for 2018/19 were approved for signing off.

Their signs were emblazoned with the words ‘Act now’ and ‘Where is your urgency?’, which appeared to be a reference to Renfrewshire Council’s decision to declare a climate emergency at the last full council meeting on June 27.

The group of protesters, which included Michael Carr, Mary O’Brien, Mick McMahon and David Carruth, stood up in the public gallery as a combination of confusion and noise broke out in the chambers yesterday.

Provost Lorraine Cameron told the individuals to take their seat, which they eventually did, but during the annual report of the chief social work officer, John Trainer, proceedings were interrupted for a second time.

Mr Trainer was updating councillors on the challenges facing the service and its important work with children in foster care and those from an asylum seeking background when Ms O’Brien began shouting.

She reminded the council they had declared a climate emergency, before asking: “Where is the urgency?”

Provost Cameron told the protesters she understood their concerns regarding the climate but reminded them there were “better ways” to raise the concerns, such as via a councillor before the meeting.

The protest comes a week after Renfrewshire Council refused to give schoolchildren permission to attend climate change rallies held in Glasgow and Edinburgh. 

Any pupil who was absent - even if they had the permission of a parent or guardian - had their absence marked as "unauthorised". 

Once the protesters took their seats again, Mr Trainer continued his report.

Councillor Eileen McCartin said: “I’m very sorry that our visitors felt the need to come in at that point.

“We are very anxious about climate change. We are all ensuring that we do move forward.

“What John was talking about was incredibly important. The issues you raised were raised at a critical moment.”

READ MORE: Campaigners slam Renfrewshire Council over ‘lack of support' for Global Climate Strike

Councillor Paul Mack was then criticised for contributing to the disruption as he entered with a tray of coffees.

The Gazette: Cllr Paul Mack Cllr Paul Mack

Provost Cameron expressed her disappointment in his behaviour, before Councillor Mack accused the Provost of “picking on” him and said he was only being “courteous”.

Councillor Andy Steel hit out and said: “This is a social work report Paul.”

The meeting was then suspended for 15 minutes as the lights went out.

Once the meeting got back under way, Mr Trainer was able to complete his report.

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