They joined striking pupils across the country and the rest of the world in the first major demonstration since the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow last year.
Maria Warmerdam, 14, from Edinburgh’s branch of Fridays for Future, said missing school was “the only way we young people can have our voices heard – and it’s the only way we won’t be ignored”.
She said: “What is school supposed to be preparing us for? Why should I study for a future that’s falling apart in front of me, a future that’s already been destroyed for so many?
“The people in power, the people who want me in school right now, are not listening to the science and the people presenting unmistakable evidence this crisis is happening.”
Masie Wood, 11, from Edinburgh, said she had told her school she would be absent to join the march.
“We are here today because the Government can’t be bothered to make sure we don’t die,” she said. “It’s quite sad really.”
The protesters marched from the Scottish Parliament to Edinburgh City Chambers on the Royal Mile, as part of a route more than a mile long.
Outside St Andrew’s House, the headquarters of the Scottish Government, Fridays for Future campaigner Sandy Boyd said ministers had “sat around and twiddled their thumbs as our planet burns”.
The 18-year-old said: “This is why we are out here today. The Scottish Government is failing to protect our futures. Inside that building they are not taking emergency action over the climate crisis.”
The march continued along Princes Street, where buses and trams were stopped to allow protesters to pass.
Cora Gibson, 15, told protesters “Westminster fuels the fire, literally, whether its the new Cambo oil field or the cost of living, which crawls up every day, but the wages never do, or it’s the very climate crisis itself.”
Caris Baker, 20, also joined the march, and said youngsters were demanding action because they were “terrified” for their futures under the current climate policies.
“There is nothing else we can do apart from getting on streets now and making our voices heard and that’s why we’re here today to demand people are put over profit,” she said.
“This is us carving out a space for young voices to be heard because no-one else is going to do it for us, no-one else is going to save us, no-one else is going to give us a space, so that’s why we’re here doing that for ourselves.
“There’s no age limit to getting involved in this. We’re trying to engage all the young voices we can because it’s our future and it’s our kids’ future.”
On COP26, she said the biggest delegation was the oil lobby and the action taken on the industry “wasn’t even close to enough”. The Scottish strikes – also held in Glasgow, Dumfries, Falkirk, Inverness, Stirling and Ullapool – were among more than 700 protests worldwide as part of the Fridays For Future movement. It became a global phenomenon when Greta Thunberg refused to go to school in August 2019.