From the level of engagement and voter turnout for the Scottish independence referendum, it is quite clear Scotland’s young people are very well informed about the various issues and concerns that affect us all. With more than 80 per cent of young people registered to vote, we have proven we take our right to vote seriously, and we have earned an extension of the voting age to all elections.
Young people across the country demonstrated their desire to be involved in the debate and shape their own futures. This was clearly highlighted during the televised coverage of the Hydro event in Glasgow where more than 7000 eligible voters met to question the panellists representing each campaign.
From my own experience, I know that levels of interest and engagement were high throughout secondary schools. The debate captivated young people across the country and was a regular topic of discussion. There are few countries around the world where 16 and 17-year-olds have been given the right to vote. For example, Austria is the first country in the European Union and throughout the developed democratic world to prove votes for 16 and 17-year-olds would only benefit democracy by ensuring the voices of all citizens are heard.
So, the question is now, why would we not think it appropriate for that age group to vote? One argument raised in favour time and time again is, if a 16-year-old is legally entitled to get married, pay taxes, and join the armed forces, then why it is not right for them to participate in the democratic process of voting? Surely if someone of this age is allowed to contribute to society, they should be allowed to have their say on who runs the country in which they live.
Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament campaigned to ensure all 16- and 17-year-olds were given the right to vote in the Scottish referendum, and we plan to continue campaigning.
• Aaron Rhys Doidge is a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament