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Closing and Final Speech to #SYP54 – Kyle Thornton MSYP, Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

MSYPs, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

It is now time for me to make my last speech to SYP since I first stood for election 5 years ago and while I’m sad to be leaving, I’m also proud and optimistic because I’m really glad to say the SYP I stood for election to as a 14 year old is not the SYP that I’ve led over the past year as Chair.

 

We’re better, so much better than then. We now have a much stronger mandate to represent young people with 2011′s elections gaining over 63,000 votes and there now being a representative from every part of Scotland.

 

Today, we achieve real change for Scotland’s young people with this year seeing the achievement of real progress for young carers, the introduction of Votes at 16 for the referendum and of course, the introduction of same-sex marriage in Scotland. If I’m honest, it’s probably that last, and I think greatest achievement, so far, that I’ll be most proud of from my time as an MSYP.

 

What that campaign showed me i©DN Andersons that for young people, there is no great divide between us. We believe in fairness and freedom as a generation, that campaign showed that we weren’t afraid to get out there and to stand up, as young people, for what we believe is right. On a personal note, and on behalf of those young people, myself included, who thanks to the hard work and campaigning of this membership and the one before can now enjoy the same rights to marry regardless of sexuality, can I say thank you and I hope you all can take a little bit of pride in knowing that you have made a real difference for a lot of young people.

 

This September, our ability to make a real difference for young people will also be on display when thanks to our hard campaigning work, we helped ensure 16 and 17 year olds will get a say on the future of their nation. And if I can ask you one favour, after the referendum, it’s this – when young people have turned out in their thousands for the referendum and have cast the most important ballot of the next 30 years, ask your Parliamentarians why exactly some of your constituents got to vote on the future of their country but can’t vote to decide their MP, MSP or Councillor. Whatever the result of the referendum, the campaign for Votes at 16 will face a now or never opportunity to secure Votes at 16 for generations to come, let’s make sure SYP is at the forefront of clinching that final, lasting victory on the voting age.

 

And this year’s campaign, Care.Fair. Share., exemplifies the idea that young people have a real calling towards fairness and social justice. Most of us in this room aren’t young carers but we’ve spent the last six months up and down the country, shouting loud to make sure young carers get the fair treatment they deserve and I know, from talking to young carers, that they appreciate that their Youth Parliament is 100% right behind them and the invaluable role they play in society. And for the last time, can I once again embarrass Lauren King MSYP, our campaign lead. Lauren is a SYP success story. She’s taken an issue which was on the fringes of our debates, brought to her by her local young carers group, presented it to us, presented it to Parliament and she now leads a National Campaign all about fairness for young carers. Lauren, thank you for your work as our campaign lead, you’ve done a fantastic job and I know everyone in this room is incredibly proud to have you as our campaign lead.

 

As I look around this room, I also see a growing SYP success story. When I first stood 5 years ago, we used to get accusations of being a “middle class talking shop” thrown at us regularly. We’re now more representative that ever before. From the boy fae Govan as Chair to a membership more reflective of Scotland, no-one now says that about us – but we can’t rest because we always need to be doing our best to be more representative. If there’s one area that we need to work on, it’s ensuring we continue to grow the number of young women in our organisation but I don’t think that happens by quotas, by selecting people because of their gender. SYP needs to keep making the case to women across the country to get involved and then when they’re here, to stand to lead our organisation.

We’ve had a fantastic year. It has been my privilege to lead SYP through it and as I said at the start, I leave proud and optimistic. We’ve taken the challenge of the referendum by the horns and used it as an opportunity to reach out to others in our sector and to young people who we’ve never reached before to urge them to register to vote and cast their vote. We’re now seen as the sector leader on Young Voter Engagement and we’ve got a real opportunity, post-referendum, to continue to build our Youth Engagement and our reputation for high quality, youth-led engagement reaching out to more and more young people, letting them know we’re here for them and encouraging them to use us as their voice.LM_SYP_012

 

I’m also really proud of our SYPeers programme which sees young people, who aren’t MSYPs but who are passionate about democracy and our work, receive training to go out across Scotland and deliver sessions and engage with young people. It sums up the change in SYP we’ve made over the last couple of years. SYP is no longer just a members club, where all our focus goes solely on MSYPs, but we reach out to all young people, with programmes and opportunities, youth engagement and education events. That’s what a Parliament is all about, not looking in but reaching out and SYP is always at its best when we reach out and involve as many young people as we can in our work.

 

Jamie and his team have also been working hard to ensure that we reach the “hard to reach” young people in Scotland. We’ve been working with a range of partners to make it happen from young prisoners to looked after young people to young carers. We’ve been making sure your background isn’t a barrier to participating in SYP.

 

While SYP is bringing back Youth Work in a big way to our work centrally, we’re seeing a real challenge to youth work by our Local Authorities. When I lost my first SYP Election, it was Jo, my Youth Worker at the time who kept me involved in the whole thing. She refused to let me just drop off or do other things and I can’t thank her enough for what she did for me. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Jo and I know many of you will have similar Youth Workers, who have made that difference to your life. SYP needs to start telling its Youth Work stories because if we don’t, we risk letting youth work disappear in some places. In my own authority, it hangs on by a thread because of determined people, who need our support. Tomorrow’s young people will thank us for making the case now for strong youth work services. Could I please take this opportunity to ask you all to show your appreciation to your Support Workers for the work that they do with you on an ongoing basis, and for all the work involved in bringing us to Shetland this weekend.

 

This year we’ve also had a range of internal reforms, some of which I’ll be putting forward to a vote tomorrow. I think it is mark of maturity that we are able to look at ourselves and our structures with a critical eye, and make positive changes based on the views of our Membership.

 

Our staff team is now bigger and better and I think it shows. We’re quickly gaining a reputation for being an efficient, well run and passionate organisation. Our staff team love what we do, they embrace their role in supporting young people to take the lead in our organisation and we owe them a real debt for what they do to enable us to represent Scotland’s young people.

 

It has been my pleasure to lead an organisation with such a fantastic team within it and I want to pay special tribute to our Chief Executive, Hamira. You don’t quite appreciate just how much she does for us until you become “the boss”. I’ve never met someone so hard working, dynamic, creative and passionate about us. She’s first in in the morning and last out at night and really does put 110% into SYP, making sure we have a well run staff team and that our organisation is working well. On behalf of the board, and the membership, thank you very much.

 

My last thanks as Chair hasLM_SYP_074 to go to all of you, our members. We wouldn’t be a here today if it wasn’t for you all working in your local areas, promoting our campaigns and being passionate about SYP. As much as I said that we must be for all of Scotland’s young people, it is MSYPs who are the beating heart of our organisation. You take the big decisions, you lead the organisation and you make the case so well for why we need more young people in public life in Scotland. Thank you to all of you for being out in your communities, talking and listening to young people and campaigning for a better deal for young people.

 

And so as I draw my remarks to a close, I can only reflect on what has been a life changing experience for me. Where I’m from in Glasgow is better known for its negatives than its positives. SYP has changed my life and given me opportunities that I could never have dreamed of. From speaking in the House of Commons from the Despatch Box to addressing Commonwealth Parliamentarians in Cardiff to speaking in our very own Parliament and being able to meet so many different people from so many walks of life. When I first stood for election, I was a shier, less confident person than today and I owe so much to this organisation which has really transformed my life, making me a better person, able to take on what life throws my way.

 

But more than what SYP has given to me is what it has enabled me to do for the young people that I represent in the Southside of Glasgow. I’ve had the opportunities to fight for the things that matter to them, to protect local youth services and to raise the issues that affect them every day here at SYP and beyond. I make a point of always making it be known that I represent Glasgow Southside because I’m really proud of where I’m from and the young people that I represent and when I stand down tomorrow as their MSYP, I’m happy to say I’ve done my bit to make our little bit of Glasgow that bit better.

 

SYP has been my second family for the last three years since being elected. I’ve had the immense privilege of being your Vice Chair and Chair. I hope that I’ve helped make our organisation the best it can be, with the capacity and vision to develop even more, because Scotland’s young people really need us, more than ever, to be fighting their corner.

 

SYP is an independent voice, willing to stand up for what young people tell us is the right thing. We’re democratic, inclusive, independent and passionate. Our core values make us what we are and we should never lose sight of them.

 

Tomorrow you will elect a new board and a new Chair who I know will take SYP to even better places. Lots of candidates love to talk about change but do you know what, I think that’s a bit of a faulty use of words. I think SYP can be improved, absolutely, but what we have works actually quite well, so before you say change, change, change, let’s appreciate the fantastic organisation we have now and look at how we can improve it and make it better for the future.

 

Be proud to be here and be proud of what you’re doing for young people who otherwise would have no voice at all.

 

It has been an honour and privilege to be your Chair this past year and if I can ever be of help, please don’t hesitate to call.

 

So Thank You and Goodbye.

#CareFairShare Friday Focus Blog – Fraser McRobert MSYP @MSYP_Fraser

Friday, April 25th, 2014

The plight of young carers is one which was almost unknown to me before the beginning of the Scottish Youth Parliament’s national campaign Care.Fair.Share.  Yes, I remember being shown a video in primary school about how sometimes young carers had to compromise – but I never realised just how many young carers there were on my doorstep, and how their struggle often goes unnoticed due to the young person in question not wanting to cause a fuss or be picked on because of their situation.  This is why Care.Fair.Share has the potential to be a fantastic campaign.  We as young people can raise awareness on behalf of the young carers.

We can use the network of fantastically motivated young people across Scotland to raise awareness and draw attention to the astounding work that these young people do for those for whom they care.

In the past few weeks I have been speaking to my local Councillors about this situation, and I plan to contact every Councillor in my constituency in the next few months.  From the meetings which I have already had from councillors, I have noticed one thing in particular. I have noticed that our campaign seems to gain unanimous support from local politicians, regardless of political affiliation.  Once I mention the fact that young carers save the Scottish Government £1.6 billion per year, no persuasion is needed.  Those in power want to help, but the only thing which has stopped them previously is the lack of prominence regarding the issue of young carers.

The Education Maintenance Allowance is not deliberately designed to marginalise young carers – it’s just that no one has stood up for this group before.  They’ve not had the means to push for change.  The same applies to public transport, and grants for going to university.

 

Banner-Signed Final

 

The willingness to change the system is there, we just need to work together to raise awareness; to contact every politician we possibly can.

That is why in my honest opinion, we as MSYPs, should tweet, facebook, e-mail, phone, and write.  We need to spread the message far and wide.  We cannot take our foot off the pedal.  The willingness to improve everyday life for young carers is there, we just need to mobilise and campaign like we’ve never campaigned before to make it happen.  The work that MSYPs have been doing is fantastic – our goal is firmly in sight.  Better opportunities for young carers are just around the corner.

Fraser McRobert MSYP

(Kilmarnock and the Irvine Valley)

 

Scottish Youth Parliament launches young voter engagement project

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Today, 5th February which is National Voter Registration Day, the Scottish Youth Parliament launched its young voter engagement project, “Aye, Naw, Mibbe: a little about politics, a lot about you”.

This project will help ensure that young people have access to impartial information, such as how to register to vote, and will be able to keep up to date with opportunities to engage in the debate with upcoming events. In addition, the project will also be a source of information to practitioners and those who work with young people by offering advice and resources about how to discuss the referendum in an impartial and safe manner.

The Scottish Youth Parliament recently convened a reference group of organisations who want to ensure that the views of young people are heard in the forthcoming debate on Scotland’s constitutional future, with a particular emphasis on hard to reach young people.

In addition, the Scottish Youth Parliament will receive additional funding support from the Cabinet Office detailed in an announcement this afternoon.  Five organisations, including the Scottish Youth Parliament, have been selected to receive funding to find new ways of reaching out to groups who feel most distant from the political process, and encouraging them to get involved in politics and register to vote.

Speaking on the day of the launch after the funding announcement, Kyle Thornton MSYP, Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament said:

“The Scottish Youth Parliament is excited to be working with the Cabinet Office to improve voter registration.  Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament have worked tirelessly to engage young people in democratic participation.  We believe it is important the voices of young people are heard in elections, and we’re delighted to have the opportunity this year to increase the democratic engagement and registration of 16 and 17 year olds, and young people aged 18-24 on the electoral register in Scotland.”

The focal point of the project will be an online hub, which will hold access to resources and other materials for young people and practitioners. The hub, www.ayenawmibbe.org, will be launched in the near future.

Grant Costello: Scotland must back One Fair Wage to tackle poverty

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Scotland must back One Fair Wage to tackle poverty

In Scotland, we are proud of our progressive history. Time and again Scots have stood up for human dignity and better conditions. However, I’m not sure we can say that that remains the case.

The current poverty statistics make grim reading, with some 15 per cent of adults and 220,000 children living in poverty today. That is unacceptable.

Things are no better for young people. Youth unemployment is at an all-time high. Even if a young person gets a job, then the chances are that it won’t pay enough to live on.

A 17-year-old school-leaver is entitled only to a basic minimum wage of £3.68 per hour. Even working full-time they would only earn £128.80 a week. Many must be wondering: what’s the point?

Today, the Scottish Youth Parliament launches a new campaign that aims to make a difference – One Fair Wage.

Our aim is simple: we want organisations from across Scotland – from government to business, from charity to council – to pledge to pay their employees a Scottish Living Wage.

A Scottish Living Wage would make an enormous difference. It would mean at least £2,000 more a year for 550,000 low-paid workers. Younger workers would get even more.

That’s money that could be used on clothes, food or heating. It’s money that can be spent locally.

It’s money that could be the difference between an acceptable standard of living, and poverty.

There has been strong work done on this issue already, but more remains to be done. We want to see more public sector contracts going to living wage employers.

We want to see more companies paying a living wage. We want to see every local authority pledge their support.

From today, young people across the whole of Scotland will be writing to businesses, local authorities and MSPs to ask for their support for One Fair Wage.

Last year, Scotland’s young people argued for marriage equality – now we demand economic equality.

Our request is simple, reasonable and, we believe, inarguable – we think everyone deserves One Fair Wage.

This article was first published in The Scotsman on the 12th of September

Andrew Deans MSYP: Support Equal Marriage and help make History

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

By Andrew Deans MSYP, Convener, Health and Wellbeing Committee

The work of the Scottish Youth Parliament on the issue of equal marriage has been one of our finest hours. In our history, never have we been so influential on such an important issue: the support of Scotland’s democratic voice for young people lit the blue touch paper, and the debate burns on.

But it is because that debate is still very much alive that we cannot afford to stop now. The job is not done. We have come so far in the last year, but we have further still to go. In a matter of weeks, the Scottish Government is due to publish the results of its consultation on same-sex marriage. Thanks to the tremendous work of MSYPs and supporters of equality across Scotland, we are confident of a positive outcome, and I hope the Scottish Government listen to what we already know: this country wants marriage equality.

This is a crucial stage, where the battle may be won or lost. The Scottish Government need to be shown that Scotland is watching and that Scotland cares. They need to be shown that to back down now is not an option. That equality for same-sex couples is long overdue, and the time to create that equality is now. We cannot let the issue die down.

The Scottish Youth Parliament believes that two people who love each other should be allowed to get married: man and woman, woman and woman, man and man. It is a matter of equality – there is no fundamental difference between the love felt by heterosexual and homosexual couples, so what valid reason is there for denying the right to commit to one another in marriage to same-sex couples? Scotland’s young people want to grow up in a country where we do not discriminate in such a backwards and nonsensical fashion. We want to live in that country. We want to bring our own children up in that country.

We are on the cusp of that Scotland, and our opponents know it. They are renewing their campaigns, stepping up the resistance, redoubling their efforts to retain an unfair status quo, oppress numerous religions and deny a fundamental right to thousands of Scots. They are setting up for a long-term battle: but it’s a battle we are more than willing to fight, and a battle against homophobia that we will win.

To keep up the pressure, MSPs need to know that our eyes are still on them, and that we expect them to back marriage equality and protect their constituents from discrimination. It is so easy to contact all of your MSPs – it will take two minutes of your time but will be another voice asking them to make the right choice. The Equal Marriage website will take you through the process – take a couple of minutes to make that difference: http://www.equalmarriage.org.uk/takeaction/findmsp

The second way you can prove to the Scottish Government that Scotland is still watching and expects change is to vote for our very own campaign, Love Equally, for the People’s Choice Award at the Scottish Charity Awards. We want to win this award to demonstrate just how many people support this cause and that marriage equality is as important as it has ever been to us. Again, it takes two minutes to do, but if enough of us take that time we can win the award and prove that Scotland wants marriage equality and that it is a priority. Vote at http://www.scvo.org.uk/scvo-events/im-voting-for-love-equally/

If we keep fighting and keep this fantastic campaign in motion, the change will come. And in a few decades we’ll look back on equal marriage as we look upon race equality or the abolition of slavery. Throughout history people have always campaigned to stop others having the rights they have. But history will be on our side, and to look back and say that our campaign was such an important part of that piece of history would be simply amazing. Keep up the pressure and make it happen.

Votes at 16 crucial to fighting voter apathy

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

by Grant Costello, SYP Chair

The devastatingly low turnout in this years local elections must act as a wake-up call to Scotland’s political leaders.  Some of the figures are breathtaking.  In the Maryhill Ward in Dundee less than 30% of eligible voters went to the polls.  It was worse in the George Street Ward in Aberdeen, which only had 20% turnout.  The tale was the same across Scotland.

But at the same time as people are staying away, there are young people who want to vote, but who aren’t getting the opportunity.  The SYP’s experience shows young people are interested in politics – 85,000 young people voted in our elections, we received 42,000 responses to our Manifesto, Change the Picture, and over a thousand young people marched on Valentines Day in support of Equal Marriage.

So young people are willing to be involved if they have the opportunity.  But at the moment they don’t get the chance.  When young people leave school, they’re expected to take on the responsibilities of society, without any say.  No wonder they feel rejected.  No wonder when they are finally eligible to vote, they don’t recognise the value.  Between 16 and 18 they may have: married, started working, or even joined the military – all of it without voting. No wonder they ask, “What’s the point?”

That’s where lowering the voting age makes a difference.  It provides a relevance to citizenship lessons.  It provides an opportunity for first-time voters to go to the ballot-box as a group.  Because getting young people to vote for the first time is crucial.  It changes the act of voting from something done by other people, to a personal act of citizenship.  I vote because that is what we do in a democracy.

That deals with so many of the reasons young people don’t vote.  They don’t engage because they have not been given the chance.  They don’t engage because none of their peers are.  They don’t engage because they don’t see the point, and they don’t think it will change anything.

When young people get the chance to vote, more will – mathematics alone assures that.  That means the issues young people care about become more relevant, as politicians react to the new voting group.   That makes politics more relevant to young people, which means more young people are interested, which mean more young people vote.  It creates a virtuous cycle.

That is especially true at local elections.  From services to schools to skills training, local authorities have an enormous influence over young people.  They deserve a chance to have their say, and to get involved.

It’s clear excluding young people from voting is disengaging them – so political parties don’t pay attention to their interests.  We need to change that mindset.  We need to encourage greater engagement with the issues young people care about; the issues of the future.  That’s why the SYP believe it’s essential the political leaders of the present start to listen, and make themselves accountable, to those who are the future of Scotland.

A abbreviated version of this article first appeared in the Sunday Herald