By Grant Costello MSYP, SYP Chair
It’s been an extremely busy month not just for me but for SYP in general and I would say a very productive week in the lead up to our 47th National Sitting! I cannot believe it’s that time of the year again and of course this will be my second Sitting as Chair – can’t wait.
As many of you will have seen in the media or even took part in, last month SYP held the biggest public event that we have ever held, the Love Equally march. And what a march it was, with young people from across the length and breadth of Scotland joining us to march down the Royal Mile. Rae Cahill and I were honoured to have led the march and for me it was the mark of just how great a campaign it has been. With NUS Scotland, the Equality Network, LGBT Youth Scotland, Stonewall Scotland and representatives from various religious organisations, we handed over our very unique petition to Alex Salmond – a life size Valentine’s Day card which I am sure would’ve caught the attention of the First Minister! Love Equally has been the biggest campaign we’ve had and has gained the most media coverage of all previous SYP campaigns and every single member of the organisation deserves praise for that, from the Board, to the Conveners, to the staff and every single MSYP – thank you.
As you will have also noticed we just can’t get SYP out of the media right now, which is just excellent. Between editorials that MSYPs are writing, articles in local newspapers about the local work of MSYPs, articles in the national press about votes at 16, our work on the referendum, Andrew Deans’ work on the mosquito device or one of the many other hundreds of things we all do at any given time or day.
I added a supportive quote noting the SYP’s delight that the political youth wings were coming out in support of our Love Equally campaign. A joint press letter from the party political youth wings Scottish Labour Students, Scottish Young Labour, Federation of Student Nationalists, Liberal Youth Scotland, Scottish Young Greens and Conservative Future Scotland announced their full support for equal marriage. There was also a lot of talk at the Chair hustings of members wanting us to branch out and work with young wings on a cross-party basis, I hope this will be the start of ways in which we can all work together to advance the priorities of the young people in Scotland.
I have been in contact with Jim Sweeney, the Chief Executive of YouthLink Scotland to continue our recent discussions about working closer together. It is so very important that organizations like YouthLink Scotland and the Scottish Youth Parliament have strong ties of friendship and partnership so we can work on national projects and combine our resources and talents to ensure the best possible outcome for the priorities of Scotland’s young people.
On the 29th of February I attended the NHS Lothian, Adolescent Health and Risk Behaviours Symposium workshops and gave a speech with Dr Harry Burns, Chief Medical Officer to the medical profession on engaging with young people. I am delighted to say the event went down really well. This led to discussions following the event about future working with SYP, particularly with the Health and Wellbeing Subject Committee, an extremely important part of the SYP’s work.
I attended the meeting between the SYP’s Board and Conveners with the Minister for Youth Employment, Angela Constance MSP in Queensberry House. The meeting was very productive and the Minister went away from the meeting, I believe, with different ideas and new approaches.
I have been working with Rob Gowans to secure our place at the Citizens’ Advice Scotland Conference on the 1st of March. I am again delighted to say this event was fantastic with the Minister for Youth Employment in attendance. I was particularly pleased that I managed to discuss with the Minister future opportunities of working with SYP following the draft Youth Employment Strategy. After the Minister had to leave due to parliamentary commitments (but not before speaking very highly of the Scottish Youth Parliament!), the session continued with me chairing two further discussions on youth unemployment.
I was invited last week to attend the SNP’s spring conference and take part in a Votes at 16 fringe event with David Linden, National Convener of YSI, Gail Lythgoe, National Convener of FSN, and Robin Parker, the President of NUS Scotland. I was representing the Scottish Youth Parliament and the Votes at 16 Coalition. After a photo call with the First Minister Alex Salmond, myself and Robin Parker were able to speak to him and express views on the Scottish Government’s plans on votes at 16 for the referendum and concerns that not all 16 year olds would be able to vote due to electoral registration problems. I am delighted to say the First Minister took our concerns seriously and Robin and I expressed a desire for joint work in the future, which the First Minister encouraged.
As many of you might have seen I was given the honour of attending a special reception in honour of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th anniversary of serving as head of the Commonwealth at the Marlbourgh House Reception. I was lucky enough to meet with Her Majesty where we discussed the Scottish Youth Parliament, our elections and the fact that around 85,000 young people voted in our elections. Her Majesty seemed very impressed and complimented us on our work.
I look forward to catching up with everyone over the weekend. Safe journey to South Ayrshire!