Opening Remarks – Scottish Youth Parliament’s 56th National Sitting
Louise Cameron MSYP, Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament
Good Morning Everyone!
Welcome to the Scottish Youth Parliament’s 56th National Sitting, and the last sitting for the 2013-2015 term, but let’s save our tears for tomorrow! For many of you it will be your last Sitting, and I hope that it will be a memorable one for you all.
It has been a very busy few months. We have kicked off our new campaign POVERTY: See It Change It, held the SYP Elections for the next term, as well as having lots of media exposure, exciting events and many opportunities where we have engaged and inspired young people to get involved in politics.
We have a great day lined up with training for the campaign so that you can all get involved and make sure that this membership have the opportunity to make a huge impact through the campaign in our last few months.
After lunch, we have a busy afternoon getting through as many Members’ Motions as possible, with some very interesting debates ahead of us. I am also delighted to note that this Sitting will see us debate our first ever Committee Motions. In Shetland, you decided through the Procedures Group consultation that Committee Motions would provide a useful way of MSYPs influencing SYP policy, and now it’s happening. This is another testament of the maturity of SYP, and our ability and willingness to adapt to the views of our members.
Of course, to top the day off, we have the Scottish Youth Parliament Annual Awards ceremony tonight, where we will have the opportunity to celebrate some fantastic achievements, and Edinburgh will have the opportunity to showcase some of its finest local talent during the entertainment. I, for one, am hugely excited and I look forward to sharing a most memorable evening with you all later on.
The last few weeks have been insanely busy for SYP, especially with our National Elections. Although we don’t have the final figures just yet, some of the figures from individual constituencies and local authorities have been hugely impressive. Stirling saw an increase of 320% in their turnout and North Lanarkshire had over 10,000 votes cast, which was a 70% turn out of the young people in their area, an absolutely incredible result.
This really is a testament to the work our membership has been doing and the influence you have had on young people across our country. We are making politics a part of everyday lives for young people and inspiring them to step up when they are not satisfied, to take part in democracy. We are helping them to realise that their voices matter, and we are providing them with platform to affect change.
I especially enjoyed our POVERTY: See It Change It campaign launch event in Glasgow, which many of you attended and engaged with online. For me, it was really motivating to discuss the ways we could help the young people who most need support.
Tackling child and youth poverty is not going to be an easy task, but I think it really shows the challenges we as an organisation can take on nowadays. We, as young people, can see the injustice in our constituencies and on our own doorsteps, and we have made it our mission to use our influence to address this, and make it better.
Some may see the campaign as a big barrier to overcome. But I believe we can do it. I believe that we can overcome any barrier, and we can exert enough pressure and influence to topple this barrier completely. How do I know this? It’s simple. We have done it before. Equal Marriage, Votes at 16, a Living Wage, fairness for young carers.
Let’s make POVERTY: See It Change It the next on a list of successful campaigns. It is going to put us to the test so let’s show everyone what we are really made of, and campaign collectively and really commit ourselves to do what we can to fight poverty and inequality in Scotland.
We have certainly been on an extraordinary journey together, venturing up as far as Shetland, debating so many issues that our constituents have told us matter to them and making so many positive changes on their behalf. We have campaigned and contributed to a more inclusive, stronger Scotland by empowering young people to be truly engaged in decision making processes.
One of my highlights as an MSYP has been witnessing, and being part of, the huge increase in the level of engagement of Scotland’s young people with politics. Around 80% of 16- and 17-year-olds registered to vote in the independence referendum, and knowing that SYP contributed to this legacy by engaging with over 18,500 young people and registering thousands of first time voters makes me extremely proud to have been an MSYP during this momentous occasion in our country’s history.
As I am standing down as the Procedures Group Member for the UK Youth Parliament, I would like to congratulate Martyna on taking up the role and wish her the best of luck. I also have to announce the winners of the Members of the UK Youth Parliament Star Chart, and the lucky winners will win Freddos! Unfortunately, we had a three way tie with the star chart so there are three winners, but don’t worry, I have enough Freddos for you all. So, the winners are Katie Burke, Mason Rowan and Martyna Napierska! Congratulations.
Before we kick of the Sitting, I’d like to wish you all a wonderful and enjoyable Sitting, and I look forward to speaking with you all over the course of the weekend.