Aye Naw Mibbe – Robbie Nicoll MSYP

July 1st, 2014

Robbie Nicoll MSYP PCWhen looking for statistics about how many young people are registered to vote in the independence referendum, I stumbled across some comments which deemed young people “too immature” to be allowed the right to vote. I was surprised to see that such out of touch views still existed and it made me reflect on the campaign efforts of the Scottish Youth Parliament to get the important democratic right to vote for 16-and-17-year-olds. I believe that the recent efforts of the Membership of the Scottish Youth Parliament, especially from the 5 Participation Champions, to encourage young voter engagement and registration as part of the Aye Naw Mibbe project, proves this opinion to be completely wrong.

My time as a Participation Champion so far has been rewarding. I have worked with many young people, encouraging them to add their names to the 98,000 young people who have already registered, and informing them of the process of voting on the day. These past three months have seen more and more young people engage with the referendum through events such as the National Library of Scotland debate, where around 100 young people quizzed a panel of Yes Scotland and Better Together representatives. This is an example of how we are making a positive change and showing that young people can and will use their vote to influence the outcome of this huge decision.

However, as roughly 10% of young people are still to be registered to be able to vote, we as Participation Champions will not be resting on our laurels. We will be giving MSYPs more in-depth knowledge and details about the Aye Naw Mibbe project during our 54th National Sitting, which is taking place in Shetland on the 5th and 6th of July 2014. I am looking forward to this and I know all my fellow MSYPs are too. This is an opportunity to involve all MSYPs with the work we’re doing as Participation Champions, and this will support the encouragement of democratic participation in every corner of Scotland.

So, to the person who deemed 16-and-17-year-olds too immature to be allowed to vote, here is your evidence that young people can and will use their vote on the 18th September – as long as we as an organisation continue to inform and engage young people.

Robbie Nicoll MSYP

Angus North and Mearns


June 27th, 2014


Lerwick Town Hall, Shetland Islands

Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th July 2014

There is only one week to go until our July 2014 National Sitting and AGM in Lerwick Town Hall, Lerwick, Shetland Islands. There will be a lot of exciting activities going on and it is set to be a fantastic weekend! Check out what Catherine Hannah MSYP, Kyle Thornton MSYP, and Convener of the Shetland Islands Council Malcolm Bell, all had to say ahead of SYP54.

Speaking about her excitement to welcome the SYP Membership to Shetland, Catherine Hannah MSYP said:

“Kaylee Mouat and I, the two MSYPs for Shetland, are both very excited for the next Sitting to be held in Shetland. It is only one week away now! We feel this is a great occasion for all of our fellow MSYPs because Shetland has a very different setting and atmosphere compared to other places where previous Sittings have been held. Shetland is a very unique place, which you will notice when you arrive off of the ferry on the 5th of July. As this Sitting is the AGM, it makes it all the more special for it to be held in Shetland.

“We are planning a reception at our town hall in the evening which will showcase our traditional music as well as other entertainment. This should give you an insight into what Shetland is really like. We hope that all the MSYPs are just as excited as we are because this is a great opportunity to see different places in Scotland, especially the more remote areas such as Shetland.”

Also speaking before the event, Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament, Kyle Thornton MSYP said:

“I’m pleased that SYP will be in the Shetland Islands for our 2014 AGM. This Sitting is one of the most important as we not only continue our important debates, training and activities, but we elect our new Board of Trustees and Committee Conveners. As SYP is a youth-led organisation, these are the young people who will lead SYP for the next year.

“I also hope the Sitting location shows our commitment to being a Youth Parliament for all of Scotland’s young people by ensuring our island communities get their fair share of National Sittings held in their area. SYP54 will be a fantastic event and I look forward to our action packed agenda.”

Also speaking ahead of the event, Convener of the Shetland Islands Council, Malcolm Bell said:

“The visit of the Scottish Youth Parliament is a very significant event for Shetland.  I look forward to welcoming the 120 plus members, staff and support workers and I am sure they will find Shetland supportive hosts as they debate important issues, including development of the ‘Care.Fair.Share.’ campaign which aims to support young carers.  Shetland is well served by our local MSYPs Kaylee Mouat and Catherine Hannah, and I applaud the decision to take a Sitting of the SYP to Shetland at what is a historic time in Scottish politics.”

You can find all the information and updates about the Sitting here.

You can also download the MSYP pack here.

#YouthCab Event – Louise Cameron MSYP

June 19th, 2014

DSC00044The event with the Scottish Government Cabinet is an incredible opportunity for young people to get the answers to the independence referendum questions that they really want to know. Young people want to be able to engage with and shape the debate, and this opportunity is a key moment which will allow them to do so. I feel so honoured to be co-hosting an event that is so substantial and is going to engage young people, as well as give them the opportunities to pose the questions that they need answered in order to make an informed decision on the independence debate.

For the first time in the history of our country 16-and-17-year-olds are going to have the chance to use their vote to shape their country and their future. It is vitally important that we as a generation are fully committed to using this vote to make our voices heard and to make the future of our country what we want it to be.

It is really positive and encouraging for me to witness how many young people are doing their research, discussing the issues, and enjoying debating with others about the decision between yes and no. It is such an exciting time for the future of our country and whichever way the vote goes, it will change our lives in Scotland. We have a real opportunity here to show just how interested we are in the future of our country, and it cannot be wasted. This event is a very positive step from the Scottish Government to ensure young people are engaged in the debate, and I would like to applaud them for including 16-and-17-year-olds in the decision about our future.

At an exciting time that will be documented in history forever, this is a chance to ensure young people are as engaged as possible and that the importance of their involvement in democratic debate is recognised.

You can find out more information about the event, which will take place on Friday 20th June 2014 at Glasgow SECC, here.

If you have questions about the independence referendum for the First Minister, Alex Salmond, and the Scottish Government Cabinet, you can get involved in the Q&A by following @Scotgov and #YouthCab.

Louise Cameron MSYP

Vice Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament

Why you should join the Aye Naw Mibbe SYPeers – Fiona Ross SYPeer

June 19th, 2014

Fiona RossMy name is Fiona Ross, and in March this year I signed up to become a SYPeer, a young person who motivates others to register to vote and to get involved in politics.

I volunteered not because I want to persuade people of what to think (similar to many young people out there, I’m pretty undecided), but to encourage them to think for themselves, to realise that politics matters and to get involved.

Looking around it seems clear to me that our system isn’t working the way it should; I see the opinion that “they’re all as bad as each other” is becoming ever more prevalent. I see riots in London showing how frustrated people – especially young people – are that they cannot be heard through the system we have. I see ever lower voter turnout. I see my generation losing faith in politics.

And therefore, I volunteered to reinvigorate belief in our democracy – a system which fundamentally relies on people taking an active interest in politics, knowing enough to register to vote and caring enough to get to a polling station.

Even as a pretty avid supporter of one side of the Independence Referendum Debate (and no, I’m not saying which), I think it’s vital that all young people are registered to vote, and interested enough to actually get to the polling station. This is OUR future that we are deciding. Especially with regards to the Independence Referendum Debate, we are the youngest generation eligible for the vote, and we are thus the ones that will live longest with the consequences of it.

So even though many people disagree with what I believe with regards to independence, I think it’s more important that we get the outcome decided on by ALL those in Scotland. Everyone has a right to an opinion, and everyone has a right to express it, and I want to aid and encourage as many people as possible in doing just that.

Fundamentally, I have an idea of how I want the future to be. I want to live in a country in which everyone has a say and everyone utilises that say, allowing all points of view to be taken into consideration when decisions are made. I became a SYPeer to help achieve that future, to encourage others to consider political issues and make their opinions known.

The Scottish Youth Parliament are recruiting now for Aye Naw Mibbe SYPeers. You can find all the details on how to apply here.

Fiona Ross


Nicole Dempster MSYP – Care.Fair.Share.

June 17th, 2014

It has been a busy few weeks within East Renfrewshire as we have been promoting the Scottish Youth Parliament’s national campaign, Care.Fair.Share.

Firstly, Neil Wood MSYP and I, along with our amazing support worker, Emma Ball, met with Ken Macintosh MSP to discuss the aims of the campaign. We had a great discussion where he gave us advice, asked us questions, and pledged his support to the campaign. It was a hugely successful meeting, and I came away feeling encouraged that he believes in the campaign as passionately as we do. Following our meeting together, Mr Macintosh went on to submit three questions to the Scottish Government. The questions are as follows:

Question S4W-21617: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/06/2014

To ask the Scottish Government how it will address anomalies in the administration of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) identified by the Scottish Youth Parliament’s Care.Fair.Share. Campaign that result in many young carers losing their EMA entitlement.

Question S4W-21618: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/06/2014

To ask the Scottish Government what additional (a) funding and (b) bursary opportunities it will offer young carers who find it difficult to afford further education due to their caring responsibilities as highlighted by the Scottish Youth Parliament’s Care.Fair.Share. campaign.

Question S4W-21619: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/06/2014

To ask the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to alleviate the cost of travel for young carers between school, work and home to fulfil their caring and education duties.

In addition to this, Mr Macintosh once again pledged his support to Rhoda Grant MSP’s motion.

Following the success of this meeting, Emma and I attended an event in Eastwood Park Theatre celebrating the first ever National Young Carers Day. The day was filled with amazing testimonies from young carers who completely inspired me by sharing their stories about the work they do on a daily basis. The young carers’ group had created a film highlighting the struggles and challenges they face in their caring role. I then spoke to the audience and shared information about the Scottish Youth Parliament’s campaign. Our pledge board was signed by local councillors (including Provost Carmichael), council officials, young carers, and everyone else who believes that caring should not mean compromise.

After the formal part of the event, we then went on to enjoy a lunch and take part in a range of activities from juggling balloons, to creating our very own super hero young carer, to playing a huge game of zap. Young carers never fail to inspire me, and the success of the event is a testimony to the amazing and talented young carers in East Renfrewshire, who I would like to thank for allowing me to be a part of such a great day.

Nicole Dempster MSYP

The We-CTV Residential – Joshua McCormick MSYP

June 13th, 2014

20140531_192249With the Scottish Youth Parliament’s upcoming launch of the We-CTV competition, the residential weekend was a fantastic opportunity for MSYPs to get involved in the project from the very outset.

The weekend started with an introduction to the We-CTV competition and background discussion from the No Knives Better Lives campaign, which was the main focus of the We-CTV campaign in the past.

The No Knives Better Lives campaign has been a focus of the Scottish Government and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill MSP, and has seen great efforts to raise awareness of the risk of possessing a knife and the impact upon communities exposed to high levels of knife crime.

The We-CTV competition has increased awareness among young people about the risks of carrying a knife. The Scottish Youth Parliament’s launch of the We-CTV competition will see an expanse to the campaign. In the past, young people could only engage by submitting a short clip discussing or acting out the topic of knife crime. Young people will now be able to submit a creative item in three separate categories: art, literary, and multimedia. Furthermore, the topic available for young people to discuss has expanded from knife crime to include a broad range of interpersonal violence related topics such as youth violence, relationship abuse, and bullying.

The residential gave the We-CTV champions an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the competition, the topic of interpersonal violence, and how best to engage young people in the competition. As a We-CTV champion I’m looking forward to engaging young people in the topic of interpersonal violence, and in particular reviewing the literary submissions by young people.

With the expansion of the topic and the way in which to submit a creative item, I hope young people use creative and imaginative ways to express themselves and share their message. In particular, I would like to see those young people opting to create a poetry submission to consider the use of the Scots language. The competition in itself has a great team of young people and staff involved in the promotion and engagement, and is sure to see once again excellent numbers of young people getting involved and feeling engaged. I look forward to what the competition has in store over the next few months, and I look forward to speaking with young people about the competition and their ideas. Check out all the photos from the weekend here.







Scotland’s Policy Conferences Education Conference

June 12th, 2014

Emma Hendrie’s Speech to Scotland’s Policy Conferences Education Conference – new qualifications and assessments


First of all I would just like to thank you all for giving me the opportunity to speak on behalf of young people across Scotland on a subject very close to my heart – education. I am here to represent the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP).

We are the democratically elected voice of Scotland’s young people, providing a platform for young people to discuss the issues they care about and campaign to generate change on these matters.

MSYPs meet three times a year at our National Sittings to discuss and debate policy issues important to our constituents. We also have 10 subject committees, one of which is the Education and Lifelong Learning Subject Committee. For the last year, I have been on this committee and I have enjoyed working to try to improve all aspects of education. Although today, I am going to be focusing on the future of examinations.

School and education is a big part of any young person’s life. Good experiences make for good outcomes which lead to very positive futures and conversely, bad experiences and outcomes can make life after school challenging. As nearly all young people will undertake exams at some point in their education, it is important that they are consulted and informed about major changes to exams that will affect them.

This is why it is my belief that young people should be allowed a say in things that affect them – an opinion shared by 74% of 43,000 respondents of SYP’s youth manifesto “Change the Picture” who believed “Each local authority education committee should include pupil representatives as expert advisers.” From my local experience, there has been a conscious effort to consult young people – with Renfrewshire’s Department of Education setting up focus groups to talk to fourth years undertaking new National courses – making sure Renfrewshire students feel prepared and that their contribution is valued.

Personally, I feel it is important to remember that assessment should meet the needs and requirements of all young people – not all young people are suited to formal traditional examinations. The new examination system must take into account this information.

In Higher Sociology, this year we covered the subject of education – our teacher asked us to devise our dream version of the school system. When we told her our master plans, she told us what we had come up with was not too far off the new National 4 and 5 systems – a more inclusive style of exams based on the importance of skills developed over the year, not just a memory test and a system which takes into account the difference in people’ skills and abilities and adapts to these – if the new courses fit this bill, then in my opinion, it is exactly what is needed.

As a 17 year old entering my 6th year in secondary school, I have just completed my second diet of examinations.  I am the first to admit, as I am sure many of my peers would, that the exam period is one of the most stressful times in my life. Last year sitting my first exams ever I was overwhelmed but when exam structure was explained, then I started to calm down and managed to pull through with eight 1s at standard grade.

The key thing here was the support. Despite the changes in the system, if young people feel they can ask for advice and know they are being heard, I am sure they can excel with these new exams.

The most important thing to take away from this speech is that decision makers need to meaningfully involve and engage young people about issues that affect them to ensure that the needs and of young people – who actually have to sit the exams – are properly taken into account.

From my experience at SYP, if there is meaningful engagement and involvement then it will result in better outcomes for everyone.

Empowering Women Through Conversation – Nicole Dempster MSYP

June 6th, 2014

‘Empowering Women Through Conversation’ is a series of community led conversations aimed at women across East Renfrewshire. The six conversations will take women on a journey through time, exploring the inequalities faced by women in the past and their participation in the democratic process, and the actions which have led to social change for women in the UK. Find out all the details here.

Speaking about the importance of such events Nicole Dempster MSYP said:

“These events aim to bring together women of all ages to inspire discussion in the lead up to the referendum. The events have been designed by a group of women who did not use their vote because they did not recognise the value of their opinion. Each session has a different theme, and has been designed to encourage conversations.

Myself and SYPeer Jessie Ling, along with the women’s library, will facilitate the education session. This is a real opportunity for women to freely chat about why they have the right to vote. We will also hear about the suffragettes and the women’s movement. It is important that all women feel valued within society so that they use their vote.

Everyone’s opinion matters and everyone should be heard. Events like these are hugely important, as they are a fantastic source of information and encourage people to use the vote that they rightly deserve.”

Are there are any exciting events coming up in your local area? Use the SYP website or the Aye Naw Mibbe hub to promote these opportunities to your peers. You can send any details to Stephanie Brown, Communications Officer, at stephanie.b@syp.org.uk.

Why I’m calling on you to use your vote! – By Melissa Gorman MSYP

June 5th, 2014

Melissa Gorman AyeNawMibbe blog photoRecently I went to West Fife Enterprise and delivered an Aye Naw Mibbe session to a group of young people. The main aim of the session was to get people thinking about what voting means to them and why it is so important to use your vote.  This was the first Aye Naw Mibbe session that I have actually run so I was slightly nervous. In my role as Participation Champion for the Aye Naw Mibbe project, I have gone out and talked to the young people in my area in a more informal way, with the core objective of trying to get them registered to vote.  However, in Dundee 97% of young people are already registered and so the next challenge is to actually take the time to ensure they use their voice by casting their vote.

At first, the group were quiet, but once we started the ice breakers, they quickly got involved in the session. Everyone was full of great ideas and shared interesting opinions, not just about silly things such as “would you rather be 3ft tall or 9ft tall?”, but more serious topics and issues. When I asked the group, “what they would change if they were in power for one day?”, one of the participants kept coming back to his answers throughout the session to write more ideas, which was great!

At first, when I mentioned politics, the group didn’t think that it was a really important topic that affected their lives, but after a little discussion and activities, they realised that all the little things they wanted to change is determined by politics.

Half of the young people in the group were already registered and I got two new registrations on the day, which was brilliant.  Some people may be thinking that the one person who didn’t register is a negative thing, but any one young person we get to register to vote is a great result! Any who didn’t register there and then at the time have still been inspired to think about politics and how it affects their daily lives. The seed has been planted, and they will hopefully go on to do more research and register at a later date.

Both the group members and myself went home having learned something new. They learned more about voting in general, as well as the process and how politics affects them. I learned more about their area and the issues that affect them personally. Leaving the group feeling passionate to get involved and vote meant that I had inspired these young people and therefore achieved a great result

I feel very passionately about getting everyone to vote and in particular young people. There are a few main reasons for this. The first is they have been given a voice when they were given the right to vote. In the upcoming referendum it will be the first time 16 and 17 year-olds will be able to vote and make a real difference.

Often young people have many things they want to change, and complain that they can’t do anything about it – this is their opportunity. If you want to affect change, you need to vote.

You cannot vote if you are not registered by the 2nd of September at midnight!

A great challenge we often face with young people is that often they don’t see how politics affects them, but by talking about their priorities and politics you can help make the connection between the issues in their local areas and the bigger picture. By voting for your MP or MSP you can make a start to tackling the issues in your local area.

7 reasons why you as a young person should vote:

  1. You have been giving a voice by being given the right to vote! It’s important you take advantage of that.
  2. If you want to affect change you NEED to vote, change won’t happen if you don’t get involved.
  3. By voting in elections, you help affect change on local and national scales.
  4. No matter how much you think your vote will make no difference, it will!
  5. It’s important to have your voice heard, with turnout often very small each vote counts even more.
  6. You are voting on your future. If you don’t vote and the result is one that you disagree with, you only have yourself to blame.
  7. Most important, each and every one vote can make a big difference and that one vote could be yours!


‘Rural Scotland in Focus’ 2014 report launch – Scott Simpson MSYP

June 4th, 2014

Scott Simpson MSYP, Convener of the Transport, Environment and Rural AffairsOn Monday 2nd June 2014, I attended the Scottish Rural College’s (SRUC) ‘Rural Scotland in Focus’ 2014 report launch at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel in Edinburgh. The Scottish Youth Parliament’s Transport, Environment and Rural Affairs Subject Committee met with Dr Jane Atterton from the SRUC at the SYP’s 53rd National Sitting in Stirling in March 2014. I was delighted to see that the session with Jane was featured in the report, in which Members highlighted the following points:

  • The sense in which rural issues are often neglected at a Scottish-wide level.
  • Issues surrounding transport as a key short-term issue. Particularly cost, timing and frequency, causing problems with accessing employment, education and other services.
  • The main long-term issue highlighted was access to affordable housing and good quality jobs to encourage young people to stay in or return to rural areas.
  • Cultural and family ties in rural areas are prominent, and are one of the leading reasons for those staying in rural areas, even on a temporary basis.
  • Members acknowledged that recent developments had helped, such as increased provision for education.

The launch event itself was a great experience for me. I spoke to several people from organizations such as Scottish Rural Action, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, and Planning Aid Scotland.

During the Q & A session, which featured authors of the report and Rob Gibson MSP, the Scottish Parliament’s Convener of Rural Affairs, Climate Change and the Environment (RACCE), who is also MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross (my constituency), I was able to ask the question “With the report highlighting the need for a new strategy/vision for rural Scotland, how would the panel recommend that young people be involved?” Mr Gibson answered the question, and highlighted the need for better careers advice for S3/S4 students, mentioning that he is a former guidance teacher.

Going forward, I feel that the best strategy for young people and rural Scotland is for more affordable housing to be made available for young people and for further provision of education in rural areas so they do not feel like the only option is to move away, enabling young people to live and work close to home.

I spoke to Dr Jane Atterton after the event, and I thanked her for coming to our Subject Committee session. Hopefully the SRUC and SYP will work more closely in future when it comes to young people in rural areas.