MSPs call for more politics debate in schools

ACTION is needed to ensure issues surrounding elections are discussed in secondary schools, a committee of MSPs said.

MSPs say that issues surrounding elections are discussed in secondary schools. Picture (posed by models): John Devlin

Members of the Devolution Committee have given their backing to legislation that will allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in future Scottish Parliament elections, as well as council elections north of the border.

The Scottish Election (Reduction of Voting Age) Bill should be passed in time for this group to take part in next May’s Holyrood ballot.

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But the MSPs’ report on the legislation said: “The committee believes that more should be done by Education Scotland, local authorities and the Electoral Commission to ensure that all local authorities across Scotland and the relevant education bodies are best supporting the discussion of election issues in schools and colleges.”

The MSPs welcomed work being done by the Electoral Commission and others to raise teenagers’ awareness of their rights and the process for registration and voting.

In the aftermath of last year’s independence referendum - the first national ballot 16 and 17-year-olds were allowed to take part in - the committee had highlighted the need for national guidance to combat inconsistencies in schools about what issues could and could not be discussed.

Their report has now recommended Education Scotland reviews and updates its guidance “to ensure consistency in this area”.

Committee convener Bruce Crawford said: “All parties represented on the committee and the Parliament agree that 16 and 17-year-olds should be able to vote in future elections. The experience of last year’s referendum - and the enthusiasm and engagement it generated - demonstrated that young people not only want a voice, they want a vote.

“In our evidence session we have heard from those involved in administering elections, in compiling registers and from representatives of young people including young people themselves.

“While the committee believes that more needs to be done to ensure that schools and colleges are best supported to help discussion of election issues, we unanimously support the general principles of this Bill.”