In 2011 the Scottish Youth Parliament held its most successful set of elections yet. Almost 85,000 young people voted for their local MSYP.
The Scottish Youth Parliament wanted to improve on that figure, strengthen and enhance our election procedures still further to ensure our elections were robust and could engage even more young people. To that end we established an Independent Commission to examine how our elections should be conducted in future. The Commission was headed by Strathclyde University elections expert Professor John Curtice and reported back to the Board of Trustees of the Scottish Youth Parliament in August 2012.
The Independent Elections Commission recommended radical changes to the way in which elections to the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) are conducted. Amongst its key recommendations are:
all young people should have the opportunity to vote for their local Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYP).
the voting age should be reduced from 14 to 12
use of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) proportional electoral system throughout Scotland rather than a mixture of STV and first past the post.
SYP constituencies should be based on local authority rather than Scottish Parliament boundaries
greater use of internet voting
opening up meetings of the Parliament to the wider public
Chaired by Strathclyde University elections expert, Professor John Curtice, the commission was asked by the SYP to conduct a thorough review of how its MSYPs are elected. Although more young people than ever before, 84,490, voted in the Parliament’s most recent election, held in March 2011, this still only represented one in ten of all those eligible to vote. Meanwhile there continue to be substantial differences in the way MSYPs are elected in different parts of Scotland.
The Commission’s proposals are designed to foster higher participation in SYP elections and ensure that throughout Scotland MSYPs are elected via a common, robust, more proportional process.
Professor Curtice said,
‘Since its formation in 1999, the Scottish Youth Parliament has made substantial strides towards becoming a body whose members have a clear electoral mandate and can claim to be representative of Scotland’s young people as a whole. However, there is a need for further progress, not least in promoting turnout, in ensuring the Parliament’s elections are robust against fraud, and in holding its elections using a common set of rules. Achieving this will require a willingness to think afresh about past practice and to accept change for the benefit of the Parliament and the young people of Scotland as a whole. A vibrant, democratic Youth Parliament that engages the young people of Scotland in the political process is a prize well worth having.’
The SYP Elections Commission Report can be read here.
On the 25th of September the SYP Elections Commission Report was published. The Scottish Youth Parliament released a statement and a response welcoming the report, and agreeing to implement the changes proposed by the commission.
The only area where the changes were not to be initially implemented in full was on the upper age limit for elections. The SYP Board would like to make greater efforts to engage with older SYP voters in the run-up to the 2013 elections - and then to rexamine whether the franchise needs to be lowered to 21.
Speaking after the report was published, SYP Chair Grant Costello says:
“It’s clear the independent elections commission have produced a very substantial report, which challenges the Scottish Youth Parliament to reform the way we conduct our elections. It would be easy for SYP to rest on our laurels after getting nearly 85,000 votes in our last elections. Instead we will choose to accept the recommendations of the commission in full.
“The challenge for SYP now is to implement these changes, to create a better elections system, and to aim to get more than 100,000 votes in our next election in 2013.”
The Scottish Youth Parliament's response to the Elections Commission report can be read here
“To design a practical, efficient and effective system for the election of Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament, which ensures that the organisation is in the best possible position to effect positive change on behalf of Scotland’s young people.”
In particular the Commission was asked to:
Examine structures, functions and roles in relation to Scottish Youth Parliament elections, analyse the current system and consider whether elections can be conducted more effectively.
Develop approaches which maximise the participation of young people in any elections to the Scottish Youth Parliament.
Consider funding and support arrangements for future elections to the Scottish Parliament.
Consider strategies for greater engagement with the public and media through the electoral process.
Chair: John Curtice, Professor of Politics, Strathclyde University
David Anderson, Chief Executive of South Ayrshire Council
Rhona Brankin, former MSP and Minister for Communities
Derek Couper, former Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament
Gillian Lithgow, Development Manager (National Programmes), YouthLink Scotland
Biographies for Commission Members can be found by clicking this link.
A brief description of how the 2011 SYP elections were conducted can be found by clicking this link.
You can access the minutes of the Commission's meetings by clicking this link.
If you wish to discuss any aspects of the Commission's work, please contact Steven Kidd on 0131 557 0452 or email email@example.com.