Scottish Youth Parliament: the future leaders of Scotland

The Scottish Youth Parliament. Picture: SYP
The Scottish Youth Parliament. Picture: SYP
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WHEN Paisley-born Mhairi Black became the youngest MP for 350 years it highlighted that, when it comes to talent, age is no question.

Her presence in parliament has opened up a whole range of possibilities for Scotland’s politically minded young people, who are already preparing themselves to be future leaders.

Katie Burke. Picture: SYP

Katie Burke. Picture: SYP

Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament are likely to feel the effects of Mhairi’s success.

Ranging between 14 to 25-years-old, MSYPs are democratically elected to represent young people in constituencies in all 32 local authorities throughout the country. 

Their independence from political parties ensures that they are impartial and able to fully represent the views of our young people.

We meet just a few members of the Scottish Youth Parliament to discover their role

Vice Chair, Katie Burke MSYP, North East Fife

How will you be involved in Holyrood elections?

Ewan McCall. Picture: SYP

Ewan McCall. Picture: SYP

Like other young people all across Scotland, I’ve been watching the candidate’s and leader’s debates, discussing issues with my friends and peers, and reading up on how each party would address the issues that I think need to be focused on. I’ve been working hard to ensure that all young people who are eligible to vote are registered before the 18 April deadline, particularly young voters who will be voting for the first time as a result of Votes at 16.

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What are your views on the upcoming Brexit vote?

For me, the biggest thing that stands out about the Brexit/EU Referendum debate is that so many young people won’t get to have a say in a decision that will affect the rest of their lives. 
By excluding 16 and 17-year-olds from voting in both the EU Referendum and UK General Elections, the UK Government is actually threatening the high levels of political engagement we have seen from that age group in the Scottish Independence Referendum.

Kirsty McCahill. Picture: SYP

Kirsty McCahill. Picture: SYP

How does your work in the SYP prepare you for a future career?

For me personally, the youth parliament has been a source of both inspiration and learning. Later in my life I hope to be involved in elected politics, and SYP has shown me how that is done and what it takes to succeed in that world. More importantly, SYP has shown me why politics even matter. It’s not about politics, it’s about people, and about the issues that can change each of our lives for the better. SYP has developed my skills, my experience, and opened my eyes to how the decisions that are made at high levels affect every-day life.

READ MORE: Votes for 16-year-olds will be fast-tracked by SNP

What changes would you like to see Scotland make in the next parliament?

The realisation of young people’s rights, and particularly young people’s right to a voice is of utmost importance to me, and is a fundamental aspect of all of SYP’s work. As an organisation, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and particularly Article 12 which says, “Young people have the right to express their views freely and have their opinions listened to in all matters affecting them”, underpins everything we do.

Ewan McCall MSYP, Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley

How will you be involved in Holyrood elections?

I’m following the leader’s debates, policy announcements and election campaign gaffs closely to inform which way I should vote for the first time for a political party. As an MSYP, I’m working hard to make sure the excitement, the enthusiasm and the debate that circulated around schools during the Independence Referendum reappears for this election, and drives voter turnout among younger people well above expectations. It’s clear the Independence Referendum changed everything, a political awakening for young people began in Scotland and will not disappear anytime soon.

What are your views on the upcoming Brexit vote?

The vote represents a massive decision for us as a country on almost every level you can imagine, most of all for young people who will live with the decision for the rest of our lives. Confusingly though, much of the generation most impacted in terms of education, employment and opportunity are being left on the side-line and denied a say by not extending the Votes at 16 franchise. 
This see-saw approach to our rights needs to stop. Votes at 16 should be a franchise universal to all elections and referendums, and we need to get ahead of the game and start campaigning for the 2020 UK General Elections to be the first ever UK-wide election to have every tax payer, homeowner and member of the armed forces to be given the vote.

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How does your work in the SYP prepare you for a future career?

I’m interested in a career in diplomacy and maybe politics, and SYP has shown me the work behind the politics, and also the stories. When we try to express what’s wrong with our country we often put a number on it, but you can’t put a number on what it’s like to be living in poverty, scraping together a living, or suffering from discrimination. SYP has given me the opportunity to experience what’s going on behind those numbers, and equipped me with the tools to tell those stories, and put the pressure on the people with the power to get it sorted.

What changes would you like to see Scotland make in the next parliament?

The next parliament is going to be receiving new powers in the Scotland Bill that will make it the most powerful devolved parliament in the world. With powers to raise our own funds for social projects, we need to make sure cuts are reversed on youth work, and that neglected corner of the NHS, mental health, has the funding it desperately needs. Poor mental health can be every bit as damaging and tormenting as a physical malady, and fatally so. We can’t continue being a nation that tolerates its young people, or any of its people, suffering silently on 6 month waiting lists which too often extinguish the light at the end of the tunnel.

Kirsty McCahill MSYP, Ayr

How will you be involved in Holyrood elections?

I’ll be looking forward to exercising my vote! In my local authority, we’ve been encouraging young people to register to vote by holding live Twitter Q&As, and reminding them that the deadline to register is the 18th of April.

Do you think it’s important for 16-17 year olds to have the vote?

For me, it’s wrong to deny young people the vote on the premise that they’re disengaged. 
This view is outdated, and incorrect. In my experience, young people are some of the most politically engaged I’ve met. Young people are very concerned with fairness and with human rights. These issues affect us, but they affect everyone at some point in their lives. The stigma that we aren’t mature enough or educated enough to vote no longer applies.

How does your work in the SYP prepare you for a future career?

I’ve been an MSYP for 3 years now, and over that time I have grown so much as a person and developed attributes that have made me a more rounded individual. 
It makes you realise that the littlest voices can have the biggest influences, and that actions surely do have reactions. I’ve learned a lot about pertinent issues which have furthered my understanding of the country I live in.

What changes would you like to see Scotland make in the next parliament?

Gender equality is an issue extremely close to my heart, so I would like to see the next parliament encourage more of a gender balance in future parliaments and on company and charity boards. I would like to see action taken to end gender discrimination in the workplace and the gender pay gap, as even in 2016, this still happens, and an end to gender based job marketing. Jobs hold no gender.