Vice Chair Opening Statement (Saturday 21st March) – Terri Smith MSYP
Scottish Youth Parliament 56th National Sitting
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.