Votes at 16

June 22nd, 2015

Votes at 16

In the past, attempts to extend the franchise have been hard thought, from votes for working men in the 19th century and to women in the 20th century.

Last week’s decision by politicians to give sixteen and seventeen year olds the right to vote in the Scottish Parliament and local council elections required no such struggle.

There was an overwhelming consensus that following the energy and enthusiasm they showed in the build up to the Independence Referendum that they deserved it.

I have to say that I was particularly impressed by the level of insight that the thousands of young people here in Inverclyde showed during the debates in the build up to September 18th.

Similar to the extension of the franchise to 18 years olds introduced by the Harold Wilson Government in 1969, the decision to lower the voting age to sixteen reflects the spirit of the times.

However, extending the franchise on its own is not enough. We now have to ensure that we sustain the interest that has been generated by the Referendum.

Our schools with the support of the Scottish Government should continue to educate our young people about the political system, how it operates, the constraints that are imposed upon on it and the opportunities it has to achieve change.

We also need to maintain and develop forums, which allow young people to debate the issues, express their views and to get even more involved in politics. The Scottish Youth Parliament and Young Scot organisations have helped lead the way in this showing it’s not simply about voting but it’s also about making informed choices.