Good morning everyone,
It is my absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to welcome you all to the 18th East Ayrshire Council Annual Youth Conference. I would like to thank East Ayrshire Council for inviting me along to speak to you this morning.
My name is Louise Cameron, and I am the Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament. For those of you who maybe don’t know a lot about SYP, we are the democratically elected voice of Scotland’s young people. Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament are directly elected by other young people every two years in constituencies, or through national voluntary organisations.
We meet as a full youth parliament three times a year at our National Sittings, where we debate issues of importance to young people, select campaign priorities, and most importantly, represent the views of young people in our local areas. I’ll talk a little more about SYP a bit later.
This event is a wonderful celebration and advertisement of the value that youth work brings to the lives of our young people, and indeed what fantastic youth work opportunities are available here in East Ayrshire. I understand that we will hear more about these opportunities over the course of this morning.
When I was preparing my remarks for this event, what struck me most was the slogan for today; “Youth Work Changes Lives.”
So I would like to tell you a little bit about how youth work changed my life through my journey with the Scottish Youth Parliament.
I was first elected to the Scottish Youth Parliament back in 2011 in a by-election and was re-elected during the national elections in March 2011 and March 2013.
Like many other young people, I wasn’t really sure what I thought about politics as a whole. I guess I always identified it as being something for people in suits who sit in parliaments, and for journalists for national newspapers trying to catch them out about their expenses.
I always knew that I had a passion for issues affecting my local area, and was always convinced that more needed to be done to involve young people in decisions that affect their lives but, like many other young people, I struggled to see the link between this and what is commonly known as “politics”.
I had a very positive experience in my first year at SYP. Having been elected as the Convener of the Equalities Subject Committee, we did a lot of work with young people to find out about what they thought about PSHE in their schools. At this point, I felt like I wanted an opportunity to take a more front facing leadership role in the organisation and, as a young woman, I felt it was important that women were well represented at a leadership level.
In June 2013, I successfully stood for Vice Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament. This was an amazing opportunity to lead the organisation along with a Board made up of other passionate and enthusiastic young people. During this year, I had many fantastic opportunities to represent young people, meeting with decision makers at the highest level. For example, I had the opportunity to give evidence to Committees in the Scottish Parliament, participate in interviews with national newspapers and TV broadcasters and make speeches at massive conferences across Scotland.
Throughout my term, I learned so much through the opportunities I was able to get involved in , which had a very positive effect on my confidence. The Scottish Youth Parliament had not previously had a democratically elected female Chair, the young person elected by the SYP membership to lead the organisation. I felt that it was time for this to change.
In July 2014, I was successfully elected as Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament at our Annual General Meeting which took place in Lerwick, Shetland.
Since July, I have had the privilege to lead an organisation of passionate, enthusiastic and dynamic young people who are keen to represent the young people in their area to the best of their ability and affect change in their vision.
As Chair, I now sit on the Boards of massive organisations such as YouthLink Scotland and Young Scot, organisations which have a huge impact on the lives of young people in Scotland. I have had the opportunity to host high profile events in other parts of the UK and Europe, including most recently hosting the youth cabinet event with the Scottish Government and 150 young people at the SECC in Glasgow.
Personally, I continue to grow and learn with so many wonderful opportunities to meet with key decision makers and politicians to try and affect change for the benefit of young people.
Many people say that young people are not interested in politics and they are not interested in making a positive contribution. In my experience with the Scottish Youth Parliament, this could not be further from the truth. We engage with thousands and thousands of young people every year up and down Scotland. We exist to provide young people a voice to discuss the issues important to them, and affect the change we wish to see.
As an organisation, we have real influence, and we affect real change!
In recent years, we have seen major campaign successes including our “Love Equally” campaign, which started the process for equal marriage in Scotland, our “One Fair Wage” campaign convinced the Scottish Government to set up a living wage accreditation scheme here in Scotland.
This year we have convinced the Scottish Government to make real changes to the guidance on EMA to protect young carers from losing their payments.
The Scottish Youth Parliament changes lives…. I can absolutely say that it has changed my life for the better. I have been given experience and memories that I will carry with me through the rest of my career and I have become a more confident, successful individual because of that.
At SYP, we have our own slogan… “a little about politics, a lot about you”.. For me, that really encapsulates the effect that SYP has had on my life.
You too can influence change!
You can stand up for the young people in your area through the opportunities available to you here in East Ayrshire, and nationally through the Scottish Youth Parliament by deciding to stand to be a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament. I would also really urge you to engage with us online, follow us on Twitter and Instagram using @OfficialSYP, like us on Facebook!
As National Youth Work Week draws to a close, my message to you today is to use this opportunity, use the platforms here in East Ayrshire and the national platform of the Scottish Youth Parliament to create the type of Scotland that you, and the other young people of East Ayrshire, want to see.
This Annual Conference provides a fantastic platform for you to build on your engagement with young people in East Ayrshire.
But we can always do more!
That is my challenge to you! How do we work together to ensure Scotland is a nation that listens to its young people?
We do it together…