Young people’s voices should be heard in the EU Referendum – @weezeontoast

May 26th, 2015

Young people’s voices should be heard in the EU Referendum

Ahead of the introduction of the EU Referendum Bill to the UK Parliament, Louise Cameron MSYP, Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament, has urged the UK Government to extend the franchise to 16- and 17-year-olds. Louise said:

“The decision about whether the United Kingdom remains a part of the European Union or votes to leave, is a hugely important decision that 16- and 17-year-olds must be a part of.

“This is a decision that will affect our future. As a nation, we need a fair and accessible debate about the future of our EU membership, and we cannot possibly achieve that by excluding the voices of our country’s 16- and 17-year-olds.

“No longer can we continue to deny young people a voice and exclude them from shaping debates on so many issues that affect their lives. Young people are the future our country, and they are also here working hard, paying tax, starting families, and living their lives now – they deserve to have their say about their future, and not have it decided for them.

“The young people of Scotland proved, through their engagement in the referendum process, that they take their right to vote very seriously, and they have collectively crushed all of the myths and arguments against a lowered voting age.

“We know young people are engaged and enthusiastic about participating in democracy. We should be proud of this. We should be encouraging young people to have their say and shape their own futures. We should be focusing on engaging young people in politics and harnessing their enthusiasm, not sending messages that suggest their voices do not matter.

“As the democratically elected voice of Scotland’s young people, the Scottish Youth Parliament has always known that 16-and 17-year-olds are capable of making informed decisions when it comes to voting, and we have been campaigning for Votes at 16 since the start of our organisation in 1999. We are delighted that the voting age will be lowered to 16 in time for the next Scottish Parliament elections, and we believe this will have a very positive impact on the overall levels of engagement. While fantastic progress has been made, we will continue to campaign for Votes at 16 in all elections.”

I want us to champion the message that “care should never mean compromise” – A message from Lauren King MSYP

May 21st, 2015

I want us to champion the message that “care should never mean compromise” – A message from Lauren King MSYP

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As a young carer, I have experienced first-hand how difficult it is to care, be in education, and hold down a job. Many of the young carers that I know personally are continuously struggling to make ends meet. Knowing this, and experiencing first-hand how challenging it can be, has made me even more determined and passionate to campaign for young carers to ease a little bit of the pressure that comes with caring responsibilities by alleviating the looming financial burden that young carers so often face.

Throughout 2014, I led the Scottish Youth Parliament’s national campaign, Care.Fair.Share., which has aimed to ensure that young carers are treated fairly by urging the Scottish Government to ease the financial strain facing young carers.

I am delighted that as a result of our campaign, the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) has revised its eligibility criteria for grants, which means more of Scotland’s young carers can access the funding necessary to support them in further and higher education. This is fantastic progress towards achieving a fairer society which recognises the importance of supporting all of Scotland’s young people to access equal opportunities and achieve their full potential. Young carers provide an invaluable service to their families and society, and should not have to face financial hardship and compromise. I hope the amendments to SAAS’s eligibility criteria for funding will support many young carers to access the education they truly want and deserve.

Promoting fairness and equality for young carers is an issue that is so close to my heart, and to know we have made a real difference is absolutely amazing. Throughout our campaign, I have learned a lot about myself. I feel more confident as a person, but I have also learned that I can encourage others to make a change that will aid the lives of so many young carers in Scotland. It has shown me that a small idea can be made big! After all, the campaign started as a Members’ Motion. It has shown me the full process of how change can be made through SYP, and it has truly been the highlight of my four years as a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament.

Although Care.Fair.Share. has helped Scotland make fantastic progress, we cannot become complacent in our quest to ensure young carers are treated fairly by society and government policies. We must continue to call for further recognition and support for young carers, and as a nation, be able to ensure a young person’s caring responsibilities never prevent them from accessing the same opportunities as their peers. We must continue to defend and extend the welfare and well-being of young carers the length and breadth of Scotland. Loud and clear, far and wide, I want us to champion the message that care should never mean compromise.

 

Lauren King MSYP

Lauren King is an MSYP for Motherwell and Wishaw. As a young carer herself, Lauren passionately led the Scottish Youth Parliament’s 2014 national campaign, Care.Fair.Share.

The Scottish Youth Parliament appoints new Chief Executive

May 11th, 2015

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The Scottish Youth Parliament appoints new Chief Executive

The Scottish Youth Parliament has appointed Ben McKendrick as its Chief Executive. Ben joins SYP from Myeloma UK, and will take up post at our Edinburgh Office in July.

Speaking about the appointment, Louise Cameron MSYP, Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament, said:

“I am delighted to announce that we have appointed Ben McKendrick as the new Chief Executive of the Scottish Youth Parliament.

“The process to appoint a successor to Hamira Khan attracted some high quality candidates, and in Ben McKendrick we have a Chief Executive who brings a wealth of experience, insight and enthusiasm.

“I have no doubt that Ben will take the organisation forward with commitment and passion, building on Hamira’s great work over the past five years. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Hamira for her fantastic work during her time at SYP, and her dedication to empowering Scotland’s young people.

“I am very much looking forward to welcoming Ben to SYP, and I am confident we can expect great and exciting things from the organisation under Ben’s guidance and leadership.”

Our votes will decide the next UK Government – @weezeontoast

May 6th, 2015

Louise Cameron MSYP, Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament

Young people could decide the next UK Government. It’s that simple. We have a huge opportunity to ensure that the issues that are important to us take centre stage with only one day left before the General Election.

The referendum in Scotland sparked a renewed interest in politics and democratic processes among young people. More than ever before, politicians had to go the extra mile to engage young people about the issues that matter most to them. The General Election should be no different.

At the Scottish Youth Parliament, we champion the importance of civic and political participation. We passionately believe that young people should be participants in democratic processes, and that elected representatives have a duty to listen to our views given that many of their decisions will directly affect our lives. We go out into communities and talk to young people about why it’s important to vote, and why our votes matter. Traditionally, we have always said that it doesn’t matter what the election is, it is important to vote no matter what. However, I cannot help but see the unique opportunity presented to us in this election.

A recent poll conducted by YouGov suggests that 68% of young voters between the ages of 18-24 will definitely vote. In addition, a further poll conducted by YouGov earlier in March commissioned by the British Youth Council showed that as many as two out of three young people were undecided about where their vote will go. This provides us with an opportunity to define the election campaign. As a group of voters, our views and choices matter in this election.

With the polls showing that the outcome of the election is too close to call, and with the likelihood of a hung parliament increasing by the day, there is a massive opportunity for young people in Scotland, and across the rest of the UK, to push the parties on the issues that matter most to us.

By the end of the next parliament, many of us will be seeking our first job, buying our first house, starting a family etc. It’s important that we recognise the impact our votes can have on many of these issues over the next five years. We should push the candidates in our areas to outline their plans for improving employment opportunities, for creating more apprenticeships, for eradicating child and youth poverty, for providing more affordable housing, for increasing wages, for advancing and protecting human rights. These are the issues that matter to me. But what matters to you?

Whatever matters to you, you as a young voter have the opportunity to get the answers you need to decide who you should vote for in this election. Make no mistake about it, the candidates need your vote. Your vote and your voice matters.

With one day still left, I would really urge the young people in Scotland and across the rest of the UK to grasp this election by the scruff of its neck, and ensure it delivers better outcomes for you, and the other young people in your area.

Most importantly of all, no matter your views, or what issues are important to you, make sure you vote on 7th May.

POVERTY: See It Change It – Nicole Dempster MSYP meets with Alison Todd, CEO of CHILDREN 1ST

April 28th, 2015

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I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Alison Todd, CEO of CHILDREN 1st. CHILDREN 1ST is an amazing organisation that supports children and young people living in poverty. It works to ensure every child and young person in Scotland has a happy, healthy, safe and secure childhood. CHILDREN 1ST provides services like ParentLine and assists in how to deal with trauma, while also speaking out on the policy in this area to ensure children and young people are represented and have a voice.

In order to learn more about the work of this fantastic organisation, and find out what role the Scottish Youth Parliament can take on to support this work through our new campaign, POVERTY: See It Change It, Alison and I spoke in detail about various topics.

Alison began by making it clear just how detrimental and traumatising living in poverty can be for a child or young person. It really does pervade every aspect of life, from a lack of opportunities to a lack of hope or aspiration. With the cost of living higher than ever, even for those fortunate enough to be living a life out of poverty, things can be very expensive. As we all know, the cost of things we enjoy carry additional financial burdens: sport and leisure, cinema trips, school trips, and even school resources – the list is endless.

Another really important point that Alison made during our conversation was that having a mobile phone does not mean a child is not living in poverty. We need to stop stereotyping poverty and the type of people poverty affects. We need to stop thinking of poverty as being something that only affects people living on the street. Poverty is so often stereotyped that many do not realise the impact is has and how many lives it affects. It can take many forms, and at SYP we recognise this by emphasising the importance of stopping the stigma that exists around what it means to be living in poverty.

After Alison made it clear just how big an issue this is, I asked her about how she believes we could best tackle it. I was really interested to hear her opinions around the importance of a living wage as this is an issue that is very close to my heart. Alison recognised that working often doesn’t pay, which makes in-work poverty a huge issue as people face real struggles to cover the cost of living because the minimum wage is not a living wage. We are also one of only five European countries not protecting our children and young people from assault in the form of smacking from parents. There is also major work to be done when it comes to addressing issues such as the accessibility of facilities such as transport, sport and leisure.

After such an engaging chat with Alison, I was excited to hear how we can work in partnership together. She gave us her support for our campaign, POVERTY: See It Change It. Her hope is that as the democratically elected voice of Scotland’s young people, we will champion the call to end poverty, and pressure decision makers to actually take real action to combat child and youth poverty in Scotland.

Nicole Dempster MSYP

 

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70,000 votes cast in Scottish Youth Parliament National Elections

April 21st, 2015

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Nearly 70,000 young people from all over Scotland have voted to elect their local Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) in the 2015 Scottish Youth Parliament national elections.

Following almost three months of campaigning from young candidates across Scotland, young people aged 12-25 were asked to cast their vote to elect their local MSYP. Young people were able to cast their vote by submitting a paper ballot or using the secure e-Voting platform facilitated by Young Scot, depending on the method chosen by their local authority.

The elections were open for two weeks and held between Monday 2nd and Friday 13th March 2015. The results were announced at a series of events held by individual local authorities between Friday 13th March and Wednesday 25th March 2015, where many of the local authority Chief Executives acted as Returning Officers.

A full list of the newly elected Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament can be found www.syp.org.uk/elections. The newly elected MSYPs will take up office at the Scottish Youth Parliament’s National Sitting in June 2015.

The Scottish Youth Parliament is the democratically elected voice of Scotland’s young people. It provides a national platform for young people to discuss issues important to them and affect the change they wish to see.

Speaking after the 2015 SYP election results, Louise Cameron MSYP, Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament, said:

“I’m delighted to announce that a record turnout of 70,000 young people made their voices heard by casting their vote in the Scottish Youth Parliament’s 2015 national elections.

“Over the past few months, we’ve witnessed fantastic campaigning taking place all over the country, with passionate debates and hustings inspiring Scotland’s young people to get involved in the democratic process by voting in the Scottish Youth Parliament elections. It has been a truly extraordinary journey, and the success of the elections is a real testament to the commitment and enthusiasm of young people to further their involvement in political decision making and ensure their voices are at the forefront of shaping society. I’d like to congratulate all of the candidates, and wish the best of luck to the newly elected MSYPs.

“Through our work at the Scottish Youth Parliament, we know that young people engage with and are interested in issue-based politics. Young people want to have their say about the issues that affect their lives, but often the focus on negative party politics is off-putting for young people and leads to disengagement.

“For me, engaging young voters is a priority that transcends party politics, and I hope the success of the Scottish Youth Parliament elections will help to encourage politicians to put the party politics to one side and harness young people’s enthusiasm for politics by focusing on the issues and discussions that matter to them.”

Vice Chair Update March 2015 – @3TERRISMITH

April 8th, 2015

Hello everyone; it’s just me again.

We are now at the end of what I have been calling ‘manic March.’ Last month, we saw the 2015 Scottish Youth Parliament national elections come to an almighty end. We all attended the Scottish Youth Parliament’s 56th National Sitting in the capital city, Edinburgh. As well as this, we got dressed to the nines for the ever so fantastic annual SYP Awards ceremony, which took place at Edinburgh Zoo this year. This month, I’ve now totally given up on watching TV, partly because I’ve not had the time, but also because there is nothing remotely exciting to watch.

It’s now officially British summer time (or in Scotland, extended winter), Mother’s Day has been and gone, and Easter is fast-approaching. I hope you all have an enjoyable April, and I hope you didn’t overdo the April Fools’ Day pranks (I certainly did not), and don’t eat too much chocolate.

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What has your Vice Chair been up to?

Nationally 
At the beginning of the month, I went down to London to represent Scotland at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Celebration Day of a ‘Young Commonwealth’ with Louise Cameron MSYP, Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament. This was a fantastic event where I met young people from all over the Commonwealth and had the opportunity to speak to ambassadors from around the world. At the Sitting in Edinburgh, I made my last and ever-so-emotional Vice Chair speech to all of you, which I hope you enjoyed. I had the pleasure of attending and presenting an award at the SYP Awards ceremony. Last week, I went up to Inverness with five other MSYPs and I co-chaired the Children and Young People’s Summit with the Scottish Government, young people, and Children in Scotland. The event was attended Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, and her Cabinet, who I believe thoroughly enjoyed the event. Lastly, I attended the We-CTV Awards Ceremony in Glasgow, which was a unique experience to showcase the creativity and talents of Scotland’s young people, as well as emphasise the importance of tackling interpersonal violence.

Locally 
I was proud to tune in online to watch the City of Edinburgh Council’s last full meeting, where they debated and unanimously supported a motion in support of the Scottish Youth Parliament’s campaign for 2015, POVERTY: See It Change It, as well as pledging to do more to combat child and youth poverty. Apart from that, it’s been fairly quietly locally while the national elections have been in full swing. I would like to take a minute to say a special well done to all the young people in Edinburgh who took part in the #SYPElex.

 

Terri’s Corner

“Things do not get better by chance, they get better by change.” I don’t know where this quote originates from, but it comes with a story attached.  Over the last few weeks, I haven’t been myself and someone was kind enough to remind me that I had written this quote in my 2011 SYP Manifesto. I think it has a very poignant meaning and reflects our organisation, which we all love and cherish well.

Jokes

I had so many jokes sent me this time that I found it hard to choose the best ones, but thank you as always.

Best Board Joke
Nairn McDonald MSYP – Can February March? No but April May.

Best Conveners Group Joke
Nancy Russell MSYP – I used to think there was an ocean of fizzy juice – but it was a fanta sea.

Best Procedures Group Joke
Robbie Nicoll MSYP – What do you call a security guard at a Samsung store? Guardian of the Galaxy.

Best MSYP Joke
Denzel Darku MSYP – Who is the best and most good looking guy at the hospital? The ultra-sound guy.

Shoutouts

Kirsty McCahill MSYP – Congratulations on your election as Chair of South Aryshire Youth Forum.

Kayleigh Finnigan MSYP – Congratulations on your election as Chair of North Lanarkshire Youth Council.

Big shoutout to the We-CTV Champions for their work and commitment to the project, but in particular, well done to Melissa Gorman MSYP, Martyna Napiereska MSYP, Thomas McEachan MSYP, and Rachael McCully MSYP, for their enthusiasm at the award ceremony last week – “popcorn anyone.”

I’d finally like to give a huge shout out to the winners from the #SYPAawards15 – you highlighted just how much MSYPs go above and beyond what is expected of them, and every one was a worthy winner and true ambassador to the young people of Scotland.

 

Mini Staff Interview  

The staff interview for this month is with Hamira Khan, who is sadly leaving SYP in just over one week. For anyone who doesn’t know, this ever-so fabulous lady is the Chief Executive of the Scottish Youth Parliament and has been working with us since August 2010.

1) How would you describe your time at SYP?  

I’ve had the privilege to work with 3 sets of membership over my (nearly) 5 years at SYP. My time here has been inspiring, fun, often challenging, and occasionally infuriating – exactly the right mix as far as I’m concerned! A key trait of my work has been the people I’ve had the privilege to work with, inc. MSYPs past and present, Support Workers, the SYP staff team and partner organisations. All of whom have been greatly passionate about what they do and a joy to be around.

2) What is your favourite quote and why?  

I really love this question because if you ask anyone in the office, they’ll tell you I’m always sharing quotes or taking pics of good quotes and saving them for when I need an inspirational top-up.

My favourite quote is by the American author and poet Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

3) What is your favourite thing about Scotland and why?  

Definitely the people; they’re absolutely hilarious. So funny, cheeky and borderline inappropriate, and we always get away with it just because we’re Scottish. I’ve also noticed that wherever you travel in the world everyone loves it when you say you’re from Scotland, because they know we’re hard working people, we’re polite but forthright and honest. We’ll say what we mean. We’re brave, stubborn, and courageous, but most importantly we’re practical and down-to-earth. I think we’re a nation of very grounded and matter-of-fact people, who don’t like pretenses or ‘fake-ness’. I’m moving abroad with my new job, but Scotland will always be my home and I’ll forever champion Scottish people and Scottish culture.

4) What do you like to do in your spare time?  
The week is always about work and luckily I have a husband who understands and respects the fact I am career driven and love my job. I get home very late during the week and normally have a catch up with Ali about our day, watch some news and potter around before bed and getting up early again for my daily commute. So at the weekends when I have spare time, I cherish them enormously and for me my weekend (unless it’s a Sitting!) is all about family and food.

A typical weekend would be going out for breakfast in the West End of Glasgow where I live, followed by a walk and lots of fresh air (or if it’s raining watching a DVD whilst lazing around indoors). I’m currently on House of Cards, or my secret fixation – Come Dine with Me (don’t judge!). In the evening we always have plans with family or friends, which is normally dinner somewhere nice with lots of good conversation and sharing stories.

Generally speaking in my spare time I’m quite into Bikram Yoga, cooking and I love a bit of interior design. I’ve always got a ‘project’ on the go at home. Currently I’m making my own seating booth in the kitchen. Will share pics when it’s finally ready :)

5) Do you have any advice for our MSYPs?

Put yourself forward for opportunities. Don’t wait for the ‘right time’ – go for it. Be courageous. Always be polite to others around you. Listen with the intent to understand. Most people listen with the intent to reply. Surround yourself with positive people who will continue to motivate and inspire you. Be kinder to yourself – you’re brilliant and if you don’t believe it, then who else will? Always challenge yourself to do more and do better. And of course there’s going to be days when you’re feeling down – but what you need to do is just pick yourself up and carry on and keep going and going – until you get to where you want to be and you achieve those goals you set out to achieve. Nothing’s going to land on your doorstep; you must go out and get it and live that dream.

 

Final thoughts 

MSYPs have shared their thoughts on the Children and Young People’s Summit in Inverness:

Jordan Linden MSYP – “The opportunity to engage with young people and to hear their views on the important issues facing Scotland today in the presence of the First Minister and her Cabinet was a privilege. I hope that they listen to the amazing views and take them forward in their actions.”

Nicola Bruley MSYP – “Inspiring to see young people be engaged with the people who make the decisions of our country.”

MSYPs’ thoughts on #SYP56:

John Thain MSYP – “A fabulous way to end a fabulous two years”

Luke McLeod MSYP – “It was a momentous way to end a Membership which has had highs and lows for every member! It was a great end of an era for Hamira, and I wish all the MSYPs leaving us a bright and prosperous future.”

Reminders
The Procedures Group are going to close their consultation survey on Subject Committees soon, so make sure you have your say.

That’s all from me for March. I hope you all enjoyed this month as much as I did, and I look toward to hearing what you get up to in coming weeks. In the meantime, any questions, queries, or of course banter, send it my way.
 

Terri Smith MSYP
Vice Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament
@3terrismith 

POVERTY: See It Change It – Joshua McCormick MSYP meets with Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People

March 23rd, 2015

From the organisation that brought you Care.Fair.Share., Love Equally, and One Fair Wage, the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) is now leading another important campaign for Scotland’s young people since Votes at 16: POVERTY: See It Change It. This is a campaign aiming to raise awareness amongst young people about child and youth poverty, highlight young people’s rights to an adequate standard of living, combat popular stigma associated with poverty, and finally, challenge elected leaders and key stakeholders to work together to uphold the UK-wide commitment to tackle child poverty by 2020.

As member of the Scottish Youth Parliament for Cunninghame South, I have seen poverty first-hand and witnessed the detrimental effect it has on young people and their opportunities in life. The cycle of poverty is the number one cause of North Ayrshire’s struggle to give its children and young people the best start in life, and that is why I fully support SYP’s campaign. I hope we can make elected representatives and key stakeholders sit up and listen to what young people have to say on this issue.

SYP_Poverty_Logo_FINALIn politics, difficult issues like poverty don’t get fixed unless a dialogue is started and that’s what this blog is about. I was lucky enough to meet with Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, recently to discuss the issues surrounding child and youth poverty and hear his thoughts on the situation.

When I spoke to the Commissioner about the work SYP is involved in through the campaign, he remarked on the need for safe spaces to be created so young people could come forward and speak openly about their experiences with poverty and the stigma which surrounds it. Tam emphasised to me during our discussion that when we consider poverty, we must also consider the impact upon an individual’s rights. There is clear evidence to show that young people living in poverty are negatively impacted; it affects their rights to grow up well; their access to education and employment; and a healthy life free of mental health risks. During the discussion, the Commissioner also raised the point about his office’s recent report on young people’s views on education and poverty which led to the Scottish Government taking direct action to support things like cost of school uniforms and school trips.

Finally, when the conversation was coming to a close, I asked Tam what he thought about the campaign SYP had taken on. He said, “The SYP are giving young people a real voice, a real opportunity to influence and change the way things are. Keep up the pressure!” Tam’s words inspired me and ring true – the Scottish Youth Parliament is enfranchising young people by empowering their voices. At the moment, the 2015 SYP elections have drawn to a close and I am delighted we have witnessed an unprecedented volume of young people standing as candidates and voting. However, SYP isn’t only about its elected representatives – we need more young people from across Scotland to get involved in our campaign to tackle child poverty. Together we can keep the pressure on, and together we can end child poverty in Scotland by 2020.

 

Joshua McCormick MSYP

Closing Statements – Scottish Youth Parliament’s 56th National Sitting – @weezeontoast

March 21st, 2015

Closing Statements – Saturday Afternoon

Louise Cameron MSYP, Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament

 

Good afternoon everyone!

We have reached the end of our 56th National Sitting. What an incredible two days it has been.

 

This membership has certainly gone out with a bang and the lasting legacy you have created through our young voter engagement work for referendum, the positive changes for young carers made through our Care.Fair.Share campaign, ensuring Votes at 16 was included in the Smith Commission proposals, and the beginnings of the Poverty campaign have really demonstrated just what this membership is made of, and the difference you have made.

 

I would like to, for one final time, thank you for electing me as Chair of this organisation.  It has been an opportunity I have cherished and I hope that I have done you proud!

It hasn’t always been easy, but there are few things that are worth achieving in life that come without challenges. As with any work, the more you put into it the more you get out and I would not change this year for anything. I am so proud of everything our membership has achieved. As a membership, we have made an incredible impact, and done our bit to ensure Scotland is a nation that listens to its young people.

 

It would be wrong of me to let the Sitting draw to an end without acknowledging one very special person, who has dedicated so much of their life to SYP.

I know many of you will join me in wishing Hamira all the happiness and success for the future. I think we can all agree SYP is in a very different and better place than it was prior to her joining us. Her drive, commitment and professionalism have taken our organisation to a new level and her shoes will be extremely hard to fill.

Hamira has been an inspiration to me and many other young people, and has constantly supported me and so many others whenever we have needed her. I would just like to take this opportunity to thank Hamira, for all the work she has done for SYP, for all the young people she has inspired and for all the memories and laughs we have had with her and to wish her the best of luck for the future.

Leaving the organisation is very hard for me, especially when it has been such a huge part of my life and has really changed it for the better. I am so grateful for every opportunity I have been provided with, every memory I’ll cherish, every skill I have gained and probably most importantly every friendship I have made along the way.

SYP has given me a chance to make myself, to find out who I really am and to be proud of the opinions I have and the work I do. I hope that the organisation has contributed to all of your lives as much as it has to mine, and that you all feel like you have made a difference to the lives of young people in Scotland, because you have, just by being part of this wonderful organisation.

But the difference you have made goes beyond just being involved. The results of our engagement before the referendum when we were registering young people to vote, the success we have had raising awareness and having influence in parliament during Care.Fair.Share., and our success in ensuring votes at 16 will be a reality for the Scottish Parliament elections next year really prove the impact we are having on politics in this country, and it just shows that when we all act collectively, our voice is loud and it is certainly heard.

I want to give a huge thank you to the entire staff team, who really do not take enough credit for all the work they do. We are so lucky to have such a dedicated and talented team who work so well as a unit, and continuously deliver the highest quality of work. Every single staff member is so strong in their field and it really is easy working with them because they are all absolute experts and they share the SYP vision! I love going into the office and working in such a cheery and fun environment, but at the same time I am able to see how skilled they all are and how much they love their jobs. We really cannot thank you all enough for everything you do day in and day out and it is an absolute pleasure working with you all.

 

The Board, well what can I say about them. We have really come into ourselves these past few months and I am so proud of how far we have all come individually but also as a team. We are like brothers and sisters in the way that we don’t always agree on everything, but we certainly do all love each other! They really don’t know how proud I have been of them all, particularly following our ‘Dare2Lead’ day where we all just began to click as a group. Each person brings something different to the table which I think makes it so special and although we are sad to have lost two members, Sian and David, we know we that the remaining five of us can deliver, it just means we are all working a lot harder to make sure the organisation is the best it can be.

My dearest Terri, my Vice Chair, the robin to my batman, what would I do without you! Terri has certainly made the job a little bit brighter on the worst of days and has always been there to make me laugh when I’m on the verge of tears. I wouldn’t change having Terri as my Vice Chair for anyone else, she always knows what to say and has been a really great support when I have needed her the most. Thanks Terri, for every time you have been there for me over the last year and for all the laughs along the way.

Rarely will I get the opportunity to sit in a room surrounded by so many people who inspire me, by people who make me want to work harder and make a change to the world around me, and by people as selfless as so many of you.

 

There are people in this room who I will keep in touch with forever, people who I will see on the TV and go ‘I know them!’, people I will watch go on to do incredible things, and I will be so proud of each and every one of you with whatever you do and wish you all the best of luck.

 

Thank you to all of you for all the work you have put in over your time in SYP and, for many of you, the time you will continue to put in. The beautiful thing about SYP is that it only works when people work collectively. Put simply, without your effort and passion, there would be no SYP. It has been an absolute honour to represent you all as Chair and I am so proud of everything we have achieved together.

 

My words of advice to you all are keep doing what you love. Keep battling on for what you believe in and make sure that young people continue to be high on the agenda.

 

No idea is too small and no dream is too big.

Thank you.

Opening Statement – Scottish Youth Parliament’s 56th National Sitting – @3terrismith

March 21st, 2015

Vice Chair Opening Statement (Saturday 21st March) – Terri Smith MSYP

Scottish Youth Parliament 56th National Sitting

TerriSmith

Good Morning MSYPs, Support Workers and Guests, I am delighted to welcome you to the second day of the Scottish Youth Parliaments 56th National Sitting in the heart of my home city, Edinburgh. I hope you all enjoyed last night’s Annual Awards Ceremony and entertainment. I think you will agree that it was wonderful celebration of everything we have achieved, not just this year, but over our whole terms and I would like to congratulate all winners – it was very well deserved!

 

Today will be the last time I address this membership as Vice Chair, and for many people in this room today will be the last day of your last SYP Sitting.

While there will be a sense of sadness throughout the day, and I myself don’t particularly like goodbyes, I hope each and every one of you leave Edinburgh feeling proud from what you have accomplished and determined to enter the next chapter in your life and to affect the change and make the same impact as you did as an MSYP.

The Scottish Youth Parliament is a unique organisation, we showcase the talents and beliefs of the young people of Scotland and together we believe we can make a change.  It is because we share this belief and unity of purpose that every MSYP in this room has individually and collectively made a difference for the young people of Scotland.

 

When I joined SYP in 2009, I was just the ‘daft wee lassie from Leith’. I spoke without thinking, I joked more than I talked, and I couldn’t even tell you who the Prime Minister was let alone ask him a question live on television.

At 14 years-old, I was told I would amount to nothing, I wouldn’t leave Leith, I wouldn’t get a job and my life would be pointless. This devastated me at the time, but it soon became my motivation. Who was anybody to tell me I couldn’t or wouldn’t do something, so being the gobby wee lassie I was I thought I would join SYP.

Six years later, I now stand here now in front of all of you, proud of the work I have done, proud of the people I have helped and proud of the difference I have made along with all of you. Everyone in here has an SYP story, we are proud to tell people about our organisation and the journey we have all been on. The Scottish Youth Parliament is my life, it’s most certainly become a huge part in all your lives too.

But not only is it a huge part of my life, it has changed my life for the better, and I sincerely hope it has done so for you as well.

 

You’ve represented constituents, registered people to vote in the independence referendum, campaigned for a living wage, campaigned for young carers, made Votes at 16 a reality for the referendum and through the Smith Commission. The list goes on.

Whether you have helped 1 or 100 people the point is you’ve made a difference to someone’s life and that is the best gift any one can give or receive.

While MSYPs are undoubtedly the driving force behind SYP’s success there are two other groups of people I would like to thank in particular. The first is all our support workers – without them the work we do on a daily basis would not be possible, and SYP would not exist. They are so important to the health and vitality of our organisation, and I want to thank every single one of them for their role over the last two years.

 

There is one support worker I would like to pay a special thank you to and that is my support worker Mary Mitchell. Over the years, Mary has been the Edinburgh MSYPs taxi driver, she takes up and down the country while enduring the screams that comes from the back of the mini bus. She always ensures MSYPs are okay and carrying out their duties to the best of their abilities. She’s not just a support worker she’s our hippy Mary, who is always there to help and is always keen for us all to do well.

I know that there is a Mary Mitchell in every local authority. Our support workers care about us, they care about SYP. They share our vision and are fundamentally the back bone to the people we are in our local areas. So please everyone could have a round of applause in appreciation for all our support workers.

 

The second group of people I would like to thank is our amazing Scottish Youth Parliament staff team. All nine members of staff are the second support structure that allows us to achieve great things.

We have the Projects Team which consists of Claire and Rosy – two exceptional staff members. Rosy ensures all our events like our Sitting this weekend are a success and are safe, and a truly wonderful experience for everyone who attends. Without Claire overseeing our projects, we would not be able to deliver successful youth led projects in the way we do, and most recently, our elections wouldn’t have been as successful if it were not for her hard work and dedication.

We also have our one of a kind Youth Engagement Team – they are our enthusiastic staff members who travel the country to engage with as many young people as they can. Calum and Rhiannon are hugely inspiration youth workers, who champion the work we do all across the country. This dedicated team is led by non-other than Jamie Dunlop. When writing this speech I took 20 minutes on what to write about Jamie, but not because I had nothing to say but because I had far too much to say.

Jamie’s remit at SYP is more than just being the Youth Engagement Co-ordinator. He’s the guy who instils belief in us all. Over the past few years, he’s made me laugh, cry and even saved my life on many occasions – without him I wouldn’t be half the MSYP I am today.

Now on to our dedicated Public Affairs team, 3 of the most outstanding staff members who to me are our hidden gems. Rebecca is everyone’s favourite American who’s precision to detail is second to none. Steph is the type of Communications Officer that every organisation in the country should aspire to have. Lastly Gareth, he lives and breathes SYP and carries out his job with a huge smile on his face.

Last but by no means least. Our exceptional staff team are managed by our outstanding Chief Executive, Hamira Khan. As many of you will know, today will be Hamira’s last sitting.

During the time I have known and worked with Hamira, she has been our number one advocator. She invests the time and effort in not only all of you as MSYPs, but she ensures the staff team are supported and also makes sure my job as Vice Chair allows me to flourish and thrive.

The extent of Hamira’s work is unknown to many, but I assure you, without her contribution over the last number of years, our organisation would not have the public, media and political standing that we enjoy now. She lives in meetings, and she is always finding opportunities for SYP to expand, develop and strive for better. The funniest thing of all is that she loves to clean the SYP office. Hamira you are an exceptional woman and I wish you all the very best in your new chapter in life.

MSYPs, please raise the roof and show you appreciation to nine of the most incredible staff members anyone has seen!

 

Before I move on there’s a few other people I would like to mention, my fellow Board colleagues. Rachael, Nairn and David, it’s been a privilege to work with you over the last eight months – the laughs have been outstanding, the support has been second to none and decision making has been tough. You all have your opinions on how good a Board we have been, but I know that we all share the view that we have given it our all. And the person who has ensured that we have given it our all is our amazingly talented chair, Louise Cameron.

Louise always puts in 110%, she’s always on standby to represent every young person in Scotland but she’s the best friend any one could have. As far as the role of Chair is concerned, she has gone above and beyond her call of duty.

Louise Cameron, you truly are an inspirational woman, and a born leader. I hope as your term as Chair comes to an end, you’ll feel nothing but pride and joy about what you have achieved. I think we can all agree our first elected female Chair has been outstanding! She’s smart, talented and exceptional at what she does and I’m proud to know you.

MSYPs, please join me in showing your appreciation for our Chair, Louise Cameron, MSYP for Moray.

 

MSYPs, you have taken ownership and pride over the work you do. As your Vice Chair, I couldn’t be any happier – it has been a joy and a privilege to serve on your 2014/15 Scottish Youth Parliament Board.

To those of you who have been re-elected, congratulations and I look forward to working with you for another two years. But remember you have already started to create a legacy and by 2017, I hope you will have learned from your mistakes, replicated the good things you have done but most importantly I hope you continue to be a strong voice for every young person in Scotland.

To those of you moving on to pastures new, I really do hope SYP has made an impact on your life and whatever path you may take, remember to continue the legacy of standing up for Scotland’s most vulnerable and disenfranchised young people. My one piece of advice is ‘ Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, with hard work and determination you can do anything you want and achieve anything you want.

Thank you for the laughs, the memories, and your commitment and dedication – I really do wish everyone here today the very best of luck in the future – you are the 2013/15 Scottish Youth Parliament membership. You’ve made an impact, created a legacy and I look forward to the reunion in 10 years’ time.

In my time at SYP, I’ve been Terri Miller, Terri Smith,  the Convener of banter and the proud Vice Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament. But now as SYP comes to an end for many of you, I become Terri Smith, lifelong friend and someone who always has your best wishes at heart.

Thank you!