Last week, the Scottish Government took the momentous decision to lower the voting age for Scottish Parliament and local government elections from spring 2016.
The Scottish Elections (Reduction of Voting Age) Bill means that 16 and 17-year-olds will be able to vote at next year’s Scottish Parliament elections – a decision made followed wide ranging support from all parties in Scotland, who were impressed by the interest shown by young people in last year’s referendum, and their continued involvement since then.
After the referendum and the overwhelming engagement expressed among young people, it was important to give them a permanent voice on the issues that matter to them – and make sure that it wasn’t just a one off opportunity. Since the idea was first proposed, young people have fought for the change and made a persuasive case that their voices should be heard.
However in Westminster, the path has not been so straight forward. MPs recently debated amendments that would have given 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote in the upcoming EU referendum, but the vote was lost. However the bill will still go through a third reading in the House of Commons before going to the House of Lords, so we need to keep the pressure on!
Young people have proved that they are more than capable of deciding who they want to run the country and who they think will best represent the issues relevant to them. Next year voters will decide on whether the UK stays in the EU or does not – but the only way that 16 and 17-year-olds will have their say is if the legislation in Westminster is changed. It’s about time that our young adults are credited with knowing how to participate in politics.