Archive for the ‘International’ Category

A Letter of Thanks from The Scottish Youth Parliament

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

26th July 2012

Dear Ms. Sturgeon,

A Letter of Thanks from the Scottish Youth Parliament

I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of all MSYPs and the young people of Scotland to say thank you to you and to the Scottish Government as a whole for taking the historic step to legislate for same-sex marriage in Scotland.

Through our campaign, Love Equally, tens of thousands of young people have voiced their support for equal marriage. Young people across the length and breadth of Scotland have told us that they believe in the very simple message of our campaign – two people who love each other should be able to get married.

We thank the Scottish Government for listening to the views of its young people, not only sending an extremely strong and positive message rooted in equality but also showing young people that by engaging in the democratic process they can bring about real change.

The Scottish Youth Parliament understands that this announcement comes at the beginning of an important legislative process and we very much look forward to doing all that we can to assist this process, ensuring that the views of young people continue to be heard. There is still much to do and we urge the UK and Scottish Governments to work together to make any necessary changes to the Equality Act as soon as possible, so that equal marriage can be made a reality in Scotland without delay.

Yours sincerely,

Grant Costello MSYP
Chair, Scottish Youth Parliament

One year on, we must remember.

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

By Andrew McGowan MSYP (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

Last weekend marked the one year anniversary of the massacre of 77 young people in Norway by the far-right extremist, Anders Behring Breivik.

The actions of Breivik were not only the worst acts of violence on Norway since WWII but an attack on its young people – who advocated a tolerant, multicultural and progressive society.

The values of these young people and the vision they had for their country is very much shared in Scotland and our youth parliament.

The Scottish Youth Parliament showed our solidarity and sympathy for the Norwegian young people by having a minute’s silence at our National Sitting and sending a card signed by MSYPs to Norway.

One year on, we must reflect on the devastating and deplorable acts committed on Utoya, at the summer camp.

Breivik set out to use destruction and death to instil fear in people throughout Norway, an attack on their ideals and democracy, to force a change he, and others like him, wanted to see. The aftermath of his actions were supposed to rollback the frontiers of civil liberties, multiculturalism and tolerance in Norway.

The reaction of the Norwegian people and their government were to advocate these principles to counter Breivik’s far-right views and acts of violence. Bullets and bombs were supposed to bring down tolerance and multiculturalism; instead they have strengthened such principles that the Norwegian people hold dear.

One year on, all over Europe and the rest of the world, we must look beyond borders, colours, faiths and no faiths and stand against intolerance, islamophobia and far-right extremism in all its forms.

Bigotry breeds bigotry.

Equal Marriage

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

The issue of extending legal marriage to same-sex couples and civil partnerships to heterosexual couples has been gaining support and attention recently.

There has been some political support and a number of organisations intending to actively campaign for a change in the law. It would appear that the issue will appear on the agenda during the next Parliamentary session.

In our Change the Picture manifesto 73.50% of young people agreed with the statement ‘All laws regarding homosexual relationships, whether male or female, should be equal to those of heterosexual relationships.’ At the June 2011 sitting SYP voted to campaign on the issue of equal marriage. We will be launching the campaign soon, with plenty of ways to get involved, so watch this space!

Current Laws

Who can (and can’t) get married?

Any two persons, regardless of where they live, may marry in Scotland provided that:

  • Both persons are at least 16 years of age on the day of their marriage
  • They are not related to one another
  • They are not already married or in a civil partnership
  • They are not of the same sex
  • They are capable of understanding the nature of a marriage ceremony and of consenting to marrying
  • If either is from another country, the marriage would be recognised as valid in that country as well 

 Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977 explicitly prohibits marriage from taking place between same sex couples; also the Civil Partnership Act 2004 specifically excludes mixed sex couples.

Differences between Marriage and Civil Partnership:

Although a civil partnership is essentially viewed as a “gay marriage”, between same sex partners, the reason it is not called a “gay marriage”, is that there are a few differences between a partnership and a marriage on a technical level.

  • The Civil Partnership Act states that it will not allow any form of religious activity to occur during the process of registering the union
  • A clergy can perform marriages, whereas only specified registrars can perform a civil partnership
  • Religious and humanist organisations who wish to solemnise same sex marriages are currently banned from doing so
  • As same sex marriage and mixed sex civil partnership are illegal, transsexual people are forced to undergo a divorce or dissolve their civil partnership before receiving legal gender recognition
  • More than 2500 same sex couples in Scotland have so far chosen to register a civil partnership. Research has shown that many of these couples would have chosen to get married if the option was available
  • Couples in a civil partnership are not legally allowed to be referred to as ‘husband’ or ‘wife’, but have to be addressed as ‘civil partner’

Political Support

In their responses to Change the Picture, Labour, the Lib Dems and Greens ‘agree in full’. The Conservatives ‘agree in part’; the SNP have ‘no position’, saying “issues such as same sex marriage are considered a matter of conscience for individual representatives. As such, the party does not have an official policy.” In their manifesto the SNP stated “We recognise the range of views on the questions of same-sexmarriage and registration of civil partnership. We will therefore begin a process of consultation and discussion on these issues.”

In their manifestos, Labour promised to consult on the issue and the Lib Dems pledged their support for equal marriage. The Greens have committed themselves to bringing forward legislation for same-sex marriage in the upcoming session of Parliament and are confident of getting necessary cross-party support for a change in the law.


Around the world

Same-sex marriages have been growing support around the world and since 2001 countries have begun legally formalizing and performing marriages. These countries include; Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, as well as Mexico City and parts of the United States. 

The USA has seen seven states making gay marriage legal, with many more considering or having adaptations of civil partnerships.

Interesting Links

Some more thoughts on International Aid

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Whilst waiting for Andrew Mitchell MP to finish his phone call to Germany, I had the opportunity to muse on the debate about development aid. Aid is one of these issues which seems to be uncontroversial – there really isn’t much of a case for a rich nation like the United Kingdom not helping the poorest people in the world. But like most areas of politics, the cosy consensus hides a number of tough questions. When Mr Mitchell was able to extricate himself and join us, some of the controversial areas where put across to him – with some interesting answers resulting.

The most obvious, and the one some right wing commentators are most vexed about, is about the UK providing aid to economically successful nations such as India, who have a space programme. At a time when at home the Government is having to make significant cuts, it seems reckless for us to be spending money subsidising these nations. Mr Mitchell’s answer to this point was robust, he pointed out there were more people in poverty in India than in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, and the UK had as much of a responsibility to help these people as anywhere else on the planet.

The second area of discussion was on the problems of working with African nations who were siphoning aid off for their own projects; or states such as Malawi which have policies which are antithetical to our beliefs. Mr Mitchell’s response was these cases are difficult. However, the only people who are harmed by cutting aid are the poorest people in that society, and he didn’t believe it was morally defensible for more people to be malnourished, or for fewer girls to go to school in order to make a political statement. Instead aid in these cases tends to go to NGOs or specific government health or education departments who can ensure it is distributed as fairly as possible.

The final area which was discussed is the work done by smaller organisations in support of development aid. The SYP are sending a delegation out (you can read more about their trip here). Mr Mitchell congratulated everyone on the project and spoke about the work the Scottish Parliament has done on supporting work in Malawi.

These are just a few of the major issues involved in International aid at the moment – it would be great to get your comments below on what you think the big issues are.

MSYPs in Malawi

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

A group of  Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) are currently in Malawi! They will be there for 22 days to work with the National Youth Council of Malawi (NYCoM).

This is a very exciting opportunity and one which will allow them to build a strong relationship with partners in Malawi and assist them. During their visit, they will be volunteering in a school, hospital, orphanage and young offenders institute.

They have set up a blog and will be posting in it regularly, so if you want to keep updated with their work visit

Eco issues

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

The SYP June sitting is approaching and as you will already know, Saturday has an environmental theme! We are really excited about the action projects and eco festival on Saturday night. But why is it so important to be green?

What is Global Warming?

 Global warming is caused by greenhouse gases and is already causing major changes to our global climate. The target of keeping the global temperature rise below 2 degrees doesn’t look likely, this article by the Guardian explains why – Click here

How will it affect me?

But how will this actually affect our lives?  Professor Lord Stern of the London School of Economics, and author of the Stern Report into the economics of climate change for the Treasury in 2006 estimates a 50% chance of a rise in global average temperature of more than 4C by 2100 and says “Such warming would disrupt the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people across the planet, leading to widespread mass migration and conflict. That is a risk any sane person would seek to drastically reduce.”

There is plenty evidence to show how climate change has already had an impact:

  • Sea temperatures have risen by on average 0.5 degrees C (0.9 degree F) over the last 40 years [Tim Barnett, Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California]
  • 20,000 square kilometres of fresh water ice melted in the Arctic between 1965 and 1995 [Ruth Curry, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Connecticut]
  • Worldwide measurements from tidal gauges indicate that global mean sea level has risen between 10 and 25 cm (18 cm average) during the last 100 years [Warrick et al., 1996]
  • Global surface temperatures have risen about 0.7°C in the past 100 years [Met Office]
  • 11 of the last 12 years rank amongst the 12 warmest years on record for global temperatures (since 1850) [IPCC, 2007]
  • Since 1975, the increase of the 5-year mean temperature is about 0.5°C – a rate that is faster than for any previous period of equal length [NASA, 1999]
  • Average annual temperature in the Arctic has increased by about 1° C over the last century — a rate that is approximately double that of global average temperatures [IPCC, 1998]
  • There is widespread evidence that glaciers are retreating in many mountain areas of the world. For example, since 1850 the glaciers of the European Alps have lost about 30 to 40% of their surface area and about half of their volume [Haeberli and Beniston, 1998]



Food Damage

Even the food you eat can damage the environment. Eating meat is more energy intensive than being vegetarian. 10 % of energy is lost at every link in the food chain so there is a lot of wasted energy involved in eating meat. In terms of greenhouse gases, livestock is said to contribute around 15% of total GHG emissions as they produce methane which is 23 times worse than CO2. It is also very wasteful to produce meat such as beef. Roughly 10kg of grain to feed up a cow will only give you 1kg of beef.

There are other factors to be taken into consideration such as food miles (the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer) but on the whole, being vegetarian is better for the planet. Why not follow the advice of Paul McCartney and try giving up meat for one day a week.  

What can you do?

  • Day to day things
    There are loads of simple things you can do on a daily basis to help the environment. One of the projects at the sitting involves collecting litter and making it into art, this is something really popular in modern art – could maybe even make you some money! Don’t forget obvious things like making sure you turn your lights and power off when you aren’t using them and keeping your washing machine low. 
    Use this calculator to get your personal carbon footprint!
  • Activities
     Project A at the sitting is a fantastic example of an event you can plan yourself. Get your mates together and create an eco fest, you could have local bands playing, a vegetarian buffet, arts and crafts, and you could also raise money for a good cause while you’re at it! Maybe you could have a mini Big Tent Festival!
  • National Campaigns
    There are many national organisations you could get involved with to promote being green. Have a look at these links-

International Development

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development is coming to Edinburgh to join SYP, who are hosting a Q and A session. This will be an excellent opportunity to question the Secretary of State on the UK Governments approach to international development. The session will take place at the Scottish Parliament on Friday 10th June from 14:00 -15:30. If you are attending and not sure what to ask, hopefully this blog will give you some ideas!

European Aid

International aid is a hot topic and the UK has been a leading force in EU support. Andrew Mitchell visited Brussels on the 24th May to encourage EU members to keep their aid promises. Countries in the EU have committed to spending 0.7% of national income on aid by 2015. The UK government have their own plans for international aid. Their top 3 priorities, which they think will reform European Aid are:

  • To improve the focus on results, flexibility and value for money
  • To ensure the EU budget is poverty focused, protecting official development spending levels
  • To promote more joined up EU institutions to achieve greater effectiveness and coherence across its work

If you like a spot of heavy reading and want to know more about the UK’s EU aid plan, click here – Europe Department operational plan.

Millennium Development Goals

One of the ways in which the UK is helping to tackle international crisis is through the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). If you haven’t heard of these before, they are 8 goals agreed on by world leaders, which they plan to achieve by 2015

  • In the SYP Manifesto, 65% of young people thought that “Scotland and the UK should lead the way in taking greater action to meet the UN Millenium Development Goals.” Do you agree that we should lead the way on MGD’s?

The MDGs are:
1.  Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015.
Halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by 2015.

2.  Achieve universal primary education
Ensure that by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.

3.  Promote gender equality and empower women
Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015.

4.  Reduce child mortality
Reduce by two-thirds the under-5 mortality rate by 2015.

5.  Improve maternal health
Reduce by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio by 2015

6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
By 2015 halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDSBy 2015 halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.

7.  Ensure environmental sustainability
Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources.Halve by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitationBy 2015 achieve a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.

8.  Create a global partnership for development with targets for aid, trade and debt relief
Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable non-discriminatory trading and financial systemAddress the special needs both of the least developed countries and of landlocked and small island developing countries.Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries through national and international measures in order to make debt sustainableIn cooperation with developing countries, develop and implement strategies for decent and productive work for youthIn cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countriesIn cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications.

Check out these links to info on MDGs and international development:

Voices of Youth: Find out if your country is on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, learn how you can take action, and join a discussion.

Africa Renewal: Read how new media are giving young Africans a voice.

World Bank – You think, but do you know? Get information about the global issues that matter to you, share your stories, and figure out what you can do to make a difference.

Student Voices against Poverty: Read the Millennium Campaign’s Manual for Teachers, 2007 (pdf)


Interesting Maps

Because the world is round, it is very hard to make it into a flat map, and keep it accurate. There are two main ways of making a world map, the first is to keep land mass accurate but distort the distances between and positions of land. The second way is to keep the position the same but distort the size of the land.

This is a Mercator projection world map, the map you will probably be familiar with. This map was originally intended for nautical navigation. It distorts area or geographical size, and keeps the “true bearing” of mass – which was best for navigation. However, this map is not a true representation of the size of countries – for example, Africa appears a lot smaller than it actually is.

Below is the Gall-Peters projection world map. This map shows the actual size of countries. Compare the two maps, thinking about which countries are biggest and which countries are the most powerful and wealthy.