SNP welcomes further support for votes at 16

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By a Newsnet reporter

Humza Yousaf, the SNP’s youngest MSP, has welcomed strong support for the extension of voting rights to 16 and 17 year olds from Louise MacDonald, chief executive of the Young Scot organisation.

Young Scot is the national youth information and citizenship charity.  Its aim is to provide young people, aged 11 – 26, with a mixture of information, ideas and incentives to help them become confident, informed and active citizens.

Writing in the voluntary sector news magazine Third Force News, Louise MacDonald argues strongly for the right of young people in Scotland to have a vote in the independence referendum.  She criticises the description of young adults as “citizens of tomorrow”, pointing out that they are very much citizens already – “they are not the future of Scotland they are the present of Scotland”.  She adds that young people are citizens who have the right to take jobs, have a duty to pay taxes, and who can have sex, marry, or join the armed forces.

Ms MacDonald said:

“The narrative seems to be taking hold that those in favour of the IndyRef believe including 16 and 17 year-olds will boost their vote, because young people will be more likely to vote ‘Yes’ to independence … that argument is another disservice to democracy – the principle must be whether young people should have a democratic vote in the decisions that affect them now and in the years to come.  It is not ‘we’ll only let them vote if we can predict which way they will go’ – imagine disenfranchising any other group in society on that basis?”

Mr Yousaf, the SNP’s youngest MSP, said:

“Louise MacDonald’s case in support of enfranchising 16 and 17 year olds is unanswerable.  As she points out, 16 and 17 year olds are not the citizens of tomorrow, they are the citizens of today – and they deserve have their say on the future of their country.

“The arguments of those who would continue to deny 16 and 17 year olds the vote are undemocratic, patronising and discriminatory.  They make baseless assumptions about the ability of young people to participate in the democratic process and – as Louise MacDonald points out – seem to be driven more by suppositions about how young people will vote, rather than any principled position on whether they should be able to vote.

“The claim by some who have previously supported votes at 16 – such as Scottish Secretary Michael Moore – that 16 and 17 year olds should only be allowed to vote in the referendum if they can vote in all elections is also hypocritical nonsense.  If Michael Moore genuinely supported young people’s democratic rights, he would take any opportunity to advance them – not just when he thinks it suits him.

“The SNP has long supported the principle of votes at 16 and where it has the power to do so – such as for elections to health boards and the Crofting Commission – the Scottish government has already ensured that they have that right. The other parties should listen to organisations such as Young Scot and let Scotland’s young citizens have their say on Scotland’s future.”