That’s us half way through the sitting, and it’s been a fantastic day of debate and discussion. Today has been a big day for SYP, a chance to engage directly with Scotland’s parliament, and to discuss some of the most serious issues facing Scotland today. Once again I think we have met the challenge, and shown Scotland’s young people have a strong voice, and deserve to be listened to.
That’s something I want to speak about a little bit this evening. Because of the format of today I didn’t speak earlier about what we have accomplished in the last four months, because the achievements deserve to be discussed in more depth.
Firstly I want to talk about votes at 16. If SYP has a core principle, it’s that young people deserve to be listened to. It’s that young people are articulate, intelligent, engaged, and deserve to be listened to.
That’s why we pushed so hard for 16-year-olds to be given the chance to vote in Scotland’s referendum. This is a one-off opportunity, a chance to set Scotland’s constitutional direction for a generation. That’s why it was so important for us to campaign. And that’s why it was such an enormous success when it was announced as part of the Edinburgh agreement that we had been successful.
It was a fantastic achievement, and now gives us a real chance to show Scotland, and indeed the world, that young people want to be involved, are smart and informed enough to do so, and who deserve to be listened to. Remember that you did this. When people ask you ‘why bother with SYP’, or that ‘young people aren’t interested’ – remember you showed why young people mattered, and why young people deserve to be heard. Because Scotland’s leaders are listening to us – and we’re making a difference.
We’ve been able to use our success on Votes at 16 as a springboard for the organisation. With that voice, for the past year we have campaigned on the belief that no matter who you are or how old you are, you deserve the right to earn a wage based on how much it costs to live. Our One Fair Wage campaign has gathered tremendous support and we’ve at the heart of this campaign as it’s risen in the national consciousness. From the launch in September, through to being backed by Glasgow, and then Edinburgh City Council, before councils such as Fife and Highland, who had previously been non-committal also came on board. We’ve also been backed by ministers, shadow ministers and MSPs from a range of Holyrood parties, and seen a motion submitted in the Scottish Parliament supporting our campaign.
But that isn’t all that has happened since we last met in October. The Staff team and I have been working in overdrive mode as the level of interest in who we are and the authority of what we say just continues to grow and grow. We were nominated for the Liberty Young Person of the year, for our amazing work with Love Equally, we held a youth employment summit attended by 6 Scottish Government Cabinet Ministers and the BBC, we expanded the WE-CTV project across Scotland, we undertook a massive program of Democracy Days, getting out into schools and empowering young people, we saw the House of Commons back a motion in favour of votes at 16 making our dream of enfranchisement that much closer and for the first time ever, we secured every single local authority for the 2013 SYP elections meaning that all of Scotland’s Young people will be represented in this Parliament!
So with that very very long list of successes, we deserve to take a little time to bask in our awesomeness. That’s why I’m looking forward to our awards dinner tonight, kicking off at 19:30 back here at the Parliament. Please remember to bring your badges along, or else you won’t be able to get back in. It should be a great awards ceremony; and a chance to acknowledge some of the amazing work done by individual MSYPs. This has been a fantastic membership, and it is only right we should take some time at our final sitting to appreciate some of the individuals who have helped to make this happen.
Saturday we dive right back into the action where we’ll hear from the former First Minister, Jack McConnell, which will be a trememdous opportunity, and we’re definitely looking forward to it.
But aside from those two big set-piece events, there will also be some really amazing smaller sessions. I know the conveners have been working very hard to set up some really special committee sessions – it says something very impressive when we can get Government Ministers to come and attend our committees. Even the Scottish Parliament committees have to work to make that happen.
Then after lunch there are some really first rate development sessions – involving MSPs, our friends at NUS Scotland, some top-level youth-work leaders, and even some familiar faces as well.
For me this is the most impressive array of guests and speakers to have ever attended an SYP sitting, so let us use this opportunity to drive home to them that we know are important it young people. I know we’ll have a great time at the awards tonight – and then tomorrow we can look forward to a brilliant final day of our final sitting as a membership – kicking off at 10:00am . See you later!