SYP candidates clash at Mackie

The Q&A session
The Q&A session

Candidates for this year’s upcoming Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) elections took part in a Q&A session at Mackie Academy last Friday.

The three candidates went up against each other, taking questions from an audience of pupils.

Hosted by Modern Studies teacher, Lynda Swanson, the Q&A took place in her classroom during lunchtime. At the front of the room, sandwiched between the two hopefuls from Mackie Academy - Gregor Ironside and Alexander Evison - sat Robbie Nicoll, the current MSYP for the area, North Angus and Mearns.

Like a bizarre political boy band the three candidates sat nervously on stools as their audience trickled in. The room filled shortly; some finding seats, others making do with a space on the floor. Finally, an expectant hush fell and the candidates were invited, in turn, to layout their promises for the coming years.

Each was only given a few minutes to get their message across as succinctly and clearly as possible. Ironside: a curriculum for life. Evison: cheaper bus travel. Nicoll: improved Personal and Social Education (PSE).

Soon the questions started coming thick and fast.

Both Alexander Evison and Robbie Nicoll faced numerous questions on their policies for a living wage and its viability economically, especially for young people.

Both candidates still firmly espoused the positives of such a policy while Gregor opposed it and instead set out the case for a smaller increase in the minimum wage.

Gregor Ironside caused a stir with his policy on teaching standards, capitalising on student dissatisfaction with the complaints process in schools.

One student stood up to passionately describe his experience with poor teaching standards. The uproar prompted Miss Swanson to speak up “in defence of teachers.”

Alexander and Robbie were also quick, however, to point out that there were pre-existing systems in place to deal with bad teaching.

Two questions, one after the other, left Robbie somewhat flustered. The first asked what he had done?

Alexander Evison informed the audience that he had “spoken to local councillors” about the matter of better and more affordable sports facilities, which prompted a small laugh, it being well-known that his mother is a councillor in the area.

Unfortunately, however, there was too little time for all three candidates.

Policies went unexplained and unexamined, in particular on bus fares from Alexander and on mental health from Gregor.

The candidates each finished with a few closing statements.

Gregor and Alexander are taking assemblies to year groups this week at Mackie Academy, with Gregor also planning trips to both Mearns Academy and Lathallan School, before the voting period begins.

The candidates’ full manifestos can be found on the Aberdeenshire Council website where those aged 12 – 25 in this area can also vote from the Friday March 6 -13.