The rules on the voting age have now changed meaning that, for the first time, 16 and 17 year olds will be eligible to take part in elections to the Scottish Parliament and at local elections in Scotland. Starting today, the Electoral Commission is running a campaign to raise awareness of this change and encourage young people to register to vote. In this guest blog Robbie Nicoll, a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, talks about the change and the importance of young people engaging in politics.
I voted for the first time in the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, unarguably the most important decision that I have ever had to make. I voted for many reasons, as did my fellow Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYP) who were also eligible to do so. The main reason I registered and used my vote was because I wanted to have an impact on the final result. In the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections, half the population didn’t vote, and if they had all turned out to use their democratic right, the result could have been a very different one. 15% of the Scottish population also didn’t turn out to vote at the Independence Referendum, meaning that the end result could have been an independent Scotland, or an overwhelming endorsement of the Union. Every person has the ability to make a stamp on whatever they are voting in, and I believe that everyone should choose to do so.
My fellow Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, Cian Gullen, the MSYP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire also voted in the Independence Referendum. She told me that s her reason for doing so was that “Voting gives us a chance to have our say in how things are done”. Cian is not alone in voting for this reason and you can show your approval or disapproval of candidates and parties by casting your vote. It is universally accepted that there is no better way to influence politics than through voting.
Kieran Pannell, MSYP for Angus South was another first time voter in the independence referendum and is looking forward to casting his vote in the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections. His call to other young people is that “You should vote because your vote counts and could be the beginning of a large political movement.” I believe that Kieran’s reason holds extremely true with regards to the Scottish Parliament elections more so than other elections due to the voting system. It’s a proportional system which means that the number of seats won is more representative of the vote share. Therefore, each vote will count equally and your vote will make a difference to the end result.
I’m extremely glad that the Scottish Youth Parliament and its MSYPs have voting and registering to vote as such a high priority. I hope that the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections with the newly enfranchised 16 and 17 year olds and an engaged and focused electorate will have one of the highest turnouts than ever before.
The first step in all of this is registering to vote. Taking that step begins today. It takes just a few minutes to fill in an application form at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
So my message to all 16 and 17 year olds across Scotland is, I’m #IN, are you?
Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament for Angus, North and Mearns