By a Newsnet reporter
In a move which directly contradicts his own party’s policy, Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore has ruled out votes for 16 and 17 year olds in the independence referendum.
Extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds is Lib Dem party policy, and the commitment appeared in the party’s most recent manifesto.
On page 88 of the Lib Dem manifesto it says:
“We want people to be empowered, knowing the chance to change things in their neighbourhood or in the country as a whole is in their hands. Liberal Democrats will give the right to vote from age 16.”
In 2009, the Lib Dems supported the Health Board Membership and Elections Act, specifically voting for the extension of the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds (12th March 2009).
The SNP likewise has a manifesto commitment to extending the franchise to voters aged 16 and 17, and wishes to extend the franchise to allow young adults to have their say on Scotland’s future in the referendum on independence. The SNP move is supported by the National Union of Students and the Scottish Youth Parliament.
However in comments made on the BBC Politics Show on Sunday, Mr Moore apparently overruled the settled policy of his own party, and demanded that the voting age for the referendum remain set at 18.
Mr Moore said:
“So far we have not yet heard a convincing argument that says you should change the basis of the franchise on this one-off referendum, otherwise you could start opening the whole debate up to lots of other people saying they should be part of this or certain people shouldn’t be part of it.”
Mr Moore went on to say that the franchise for the referendum should be identical to the franchise for the last Scottish Parliamentary election which saw a majority SNP government returned to power, saying:
“I think the fairest basis is to use the franchise that elected the very parliament that gave the First Minister his mandate to have a referendum.”
Mr Moore’s remarks were immediately denounced as “hypocrisy” by the SNP who criticised Mr Moore for seeking to bar young adults from voting in the referendum on independence for Scotland.
Humza Yousaf, the SNP’s youngest MSP, said:
“It is grossly unfair people aged 16 and 17 are able to play a major part in our society, to pay taxes, join the armed forces, consent to marriage but under UK Government plans will be barred from having a say in the constitutional future of Scotland.
“It is of course sheer hypocrisy that the Lib Dems in Scotland have already backed votes for 16 and 17 year olds as part of elections to health boards.
“Penalising those 16 and 17-year-olds is further evidence of how badly out of touch Mr Moore and the anti-independence camp are with the young people of Scotland.”