Good afternoon everyone,
What a jam packed day it’s been here today!
I really hope it has given you all a taste of the two years ahead and that you are excited about getting stuck into all of the amazing opportunities that await you to make a real difference for Scotland’s young people.
I would like to use my last speech as Chair to reflect on what SYP and being an MSYP really means, and reflect on my last four years as an MSYP, and two years as Vice Chair and Chair.
It pretty simple really, but in its simplicity lies the reason why our organisation, and your role within it are so special.
It’s about you… it is a little about politics, but it really is mostly about you. And not just you, everyone in this room. Together.
We always say here that you get out of SYP what you put into it, and it couldn’t be more true.
Our organisation, and your role as an MSYP, will be what you make it. The harder you work individually and collectively, the more opportunities arise, and more you learn, develop and succeed.
It is not just about the work though, it is also about the amazing memories you make along the way. The best thing to do is throw yourself in at the deep end and take every opportunity that comes your way.
We have a fantastic team who will support you every step of the way throughout your time as an MSYP and your fellow members are a fantastic support network.
You will make friends here that might become some of your closest friends. I think it is so special to be able to meet so many other people who have the same passion and motivations as you and it really inspires you to go and do even more when you see just what can be achieved, sometimes against all the odds, when you work as a group.
SYP changes you as a person. It allows you the space to grow, be comfortable with who you are and get to know yourself.
SYP provides you an opportunity to shape our country for years to come; to make the lives, prospects and future destinations of our young people the best they can be.
We are the voice for all young people in Scotland. You have all been elected into this role by young people who believe in you. They believe that you are the ones who can help push for what is needed and can meaningfully represent them.
It is important that you take on this duty understanding the faith that has been put in you. With all the wonderful opportunities, experiences and fun that come with the Scottish Youth Parliament, you have a responsibility to do your best by those who have elected you.
There will be challenges and obstacles along the way but the feeling of success when you achieve something which genuinely makes a difference to the lives of other young people is the most rewarding feeling.
Be resilient! When things aren’t easy, do your best! That is all anyone can ask. Our staff team and your support workers are always there to be support you during these times.
I want to take a moment to talk about two very important values we have here at SYP. Respect and Equality. These values underpin everything we do.
We value the input and contributions from all our MSYPs, the other young people with whom we will engage with, our staff team, our support workers. Everyone has unique talents, their own experiences and background. We want to harness that diversity.
As a fundamentally rights based organisation, we have a duty to promote the wellbeing of all our young people, ensuring that our youth parliament truly is a safe space where everyone is valued and encouraged to fulfil their potential.
Respect and equality are our first and founding principles. They prevail over all else, and we must work together to ensure that remains the case.
That doesn’t mean that you are not entitled to have your own views, or disagree with other people, or even challenge the organisation to do more. In fact, it’s the opposite. These things are vital for the health of any democracy and any democratic organisation.
However, the whole point of democracy is that everyone is entitled to respectfully communicate their views, and on an equal basis. Make your contributions constructive and positive.
If respect and equality are not values that your share with the same strength as we do, then I am afraid that this is not the organisation for you.
Looking to the future, the manifesto will be a huge challenge for you all to prove what this membership is made of. I can’t wait to see you smash the previous number of responses.
You are one of the few and lucky memberships that will have the opportunity to shape and launch a youth manifesto. “Lead the way”, which you heard about earlier today, is the defining piece of work for our organisation for the next five years. It will fundamentally shape our successes and work we do over that period.
Our credibility and success as an organisation depend on how well we engage with young people. The number of responses from young people we can get to this manifesto consultation, the more credibility we have to ensure decision makers listen to us.
My challenge to you is to make “Lead the way” your priority until the next Sitting and get as many responses as you possibly can.
I would like to say what an honour it has been to serve as Chair, Vice Chair, Convener and MSYP over the last four years.
This organisation has been, and will continue to be, a huge and special part of my life and although this year has probably been the hardest year of my life, and there were times I thought I was losing my sanity, it really has been the most amazing experience and I have loved it.
I have been fortunate enough to preside as Chair whilst our organisation has achieved some of the most amazing things; making substantial changes to improve the lives of young carers; ensuring votes at 16 was included in the Smith Commission Agreement and will now be a reality for the Scottish Parliament elections; launching our first major piece of research; growing our media and social media profile significantly; getting the most number of votes ever cast in an SYP national election.
It truly has been amazing, and I am so grateful to have been able to be a part of it.
This organisation truly allows young people to have their say and get the opportunity to speak honestly and passionately about what they believe in. I could not think of anything more valuable than giving people a voice and that is what we do.
I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has trusted me to lead as Chair, supported me to get things done and believed in me to represent Scotland’s young people.
Thank you to my wonderful board – Nairn, David, Rachael and Terri. You have all been a joy to work with, and have worked incredibly hard!
To my fantastic staff team, I am so proud to have each and every one of you working for SYP and you are all amazing at the jobs you do. You all work day in day out giving 110% and you really are the best staff team in the world.
I would also like to mention Hamira who, although has now left us, was a huge support and inspiration to me throughout my time as Chair. Hamira was an incredible Chief Executive and really made the organisation what it is now. If it wasn’t for her, SYP wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it is. I can’t wait for everyone to meet Ben, our new Chief Executive, and I am excited for the new direction and inspiration he will bring to the organisation.
The most important thing you can realise and understand during your time in the organisation is why you are doing it all.
You should all write on a piece of paper when you go home tomorrow about why you joined SYP and, whenever things seem tough, go and read it and it will remind you why you try so hard, and why it is worth it.
Most of the people in this room will be here trying to make life better for other people, and what an incredible and inspiring reason that is to be here.
Whenever you feel like something seems impossible, it’s not. Just tell yourself – I can make it happen – and you will.
With enough determination, a membership is a force to be reckoned with, and I believe that you will bring our wonderful organisation onto bigger and better things.
Together, and only together, we will continue to change our communities, regions and our country, giving young people everywhere a voice and keeping Scotland a place where young people’s views are valued and heard.