Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

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