Ever since its foundation in 1999, the SYP’s elections have been conducted in collaboration with local authorities. Until 2011 the procedures for choosing MSYPs had largely been left to the discretion of individual local authorities, with the SYP only offering advice. In 2011 a more unified process was introduced. Each local authority was asked to conduct elections in accordance with seven ‘National Election Outcomes’.
To that end, in September 2010, local authorities were asked to nominate an Election Co-ordinator (almost all were a relatively senior Community Learning & Development employee) who would run the election in their area. The SYP issued rules and procedures for the election together with an elections information pack, and thereafter provided ongoing support. As many as 29 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities participated in this process.
Between December 2010 and February 2011, young people were invited to put themselves forward as candidates. A central location where young people were able to express an interest in standing for election was provided on the SYP website, with the content tailored to the registration process for each local authority. The registration process required candidates to demonstrate their commitment to becoming a MSYP by making a submission about an issue they cared about and reading about and answering a few questions about the role of an MSYP. Those whose nomination was accepted were supported in the organisation of their campaign by their local authority together with the SYP. All candidates stood as individuals without officially designated party labels.
To be eligible to stand candidates had to be aged between 14 and 25 and currently resident in the constituency that they sought to represent, though some local authorities permitted candidates to represent the area where they studied. The constituencies mirrored the 73 constituencies used in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, with each constituency electing two members. Where a Scottish Parliament constituency crossed a local authority boundary, subject to population, the constituency was divided in two along that boundary with each part electing one member.
All elections took place during the two-week period, between 14th March and 25th March 2011. All those aged 14 to 25 currently resident in Scotland were eligible to vote, though where voting took place in schools (as commonly it did) it was sometimes agreed that 12 and 13 year olds could also vote. No register of those eligible to vote was available. Fourteen local authorities used paper ballots, eight used online voting, two used a mix of online and offline voting, two elected their MSYPs through their local youth structures and while in three local authorities the elections were uncontested. Most areas used the simple majority voting system – each voter had two votes and the two candidates with the highest votes were elected. The remainder used the Single Transferable Vote (STV). In total, after 84,940 votes had been cast over the two-week period, representing an estimated turnout of 11% of those aged 14-25,135 MSYPs were elected to serve for a two year term from 2011 to 2013.
Every since its formation, a small number of additional MSYPs have been nominated by organisations representing those, such as people with additional support needs, who otherwise might be at risk of not being represented in the Parliament. The current parliament contains 19 such MSYPs.