Aberdeenshire’s secondary school pupils have learnt first-hand about democracy and have been shown the true importance of using your vote as part of the latest Aberdeenshire Schools Election Project.
The count took place at Mackie Academy in Stonehaven, with young people from all 17 of the area’s secondary schools, who came together to find out which party and candidate had won in each of the ‘constituencies’.
With 10,659 votes cast the turnout was a fantastic 75.9% which is far higher than in the last Scottish Parliamentary Election of 2011 when the turnout was 50.4%.
Each school ran the contest for its own constituency, with pupils being able to stand for each of the 5 political parties represented in Holyrood: Scottish Labour, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party and the Scottish Green Party’s.
Pupils owned the project at every stage – nominating their own candidates, running their own campaigns, staffing polling stations and counting the votes.
The project aims to raise awareness amongst young people of the importance of voting and engaging in the democratic process. All of the pupils involved will be reaching the age of majority over the next few years and, with the reduction in the voting age to 16 for the Scottish Parliament and Local Government Elections, some will be voting for the first time in just a few weeks. Therefore the process has been designed to be as realistic as possible, involving members of Aberdeenshire Council’s Elections Team and using authentic elections equipment and procedures as far as possible.
Teachers have worked with pupils in the run-up to the elections, discussing the nature of the five parties, as well as their policies and manifestos. The project saw young people draw up their own manifesto proposals, retaining the parties’ core elements.
Pupils were even provided with poll cards. They then had the chance to cast their vote on both the constituency and regional list ballot papers. However, as in real life, voting was not compulsory.
Aberdeenshire Council’s elections coordinator Allan Bell acted as returning officer and praised the efforts of all the pupils involved.
“I think we’ve seen today the tremendous enthusiasm of young people across Aberdeenshire to play an active part in the democratic process, and most importantly to learn and see how that process works,” he said.
“If we can transmit their enthusiasm to the rest of the electorate we’ll be doing extremely well.”
Aberdeenshire Council Chief Executive, Jim Savage, said: “The most important thing is that the young people are getting involved in the democratic process and are interested in taking part.
“This is an excellent initiative – the young people are obviously very interested in what happens in their world and we want their interest to continue, so when they reach the age where they are able to participate in local and national elections, they are registered and use their vote.”