SYP 59 Opening Statements

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12 March 2016


A massive welcome to you all to this our 59th SYP Sitting, here in Galashiels, deep in the heart of the beautiful Scottish Borders.

As I’m sure most of you will know, SYP Sittings are only possible with the support of our local authority partners: so, before I go any further, I want to offer our sincere thanks to the Scottish Borders Council, and in particular Ceri Hunter, for their tireless support for hosting the Sitting, and indeed for their help in organising the SYP Awards. It really is great to be here.

Please also be aware that all the SYP staff are in blue SYP T shirts, so if you need anything from them at any stage during the day, please just ask them.

Do take the time to introduce yourself to each of them at some stage over the weekend- and if you have any questions about SYP or the Sitting itself, they are the people to speak to.

I, for one, cannot believe that it has been nearly five months since SYP 58. I hope you don’t mind if I take a moment or two to reflect on what has been going on since then.

In January, we launched the new campaign, Speak Your Mind, designed to raise awareness about young people’s mental health. The campaign is currently in research phase, and 68 MSYPs have taken part in the training to allow them to get out there and gather the views of the young people in their area.

Just before lunch, we will hear from our keynote speaker, Jonny Benjamin. Now I don’t want to say too much, but Jonny has done some tremendous work to raise awareness about mental health issues, in the UK and right across the world. I think his contribution will be special and the perfect one for this Sitting, given our campaign on Speak Your Mind.
And, speaking of Speak Your Mind, you will each get a campaign update and the chance to take part in the campaign engagement training just after lunch.

Some of you might remember that I announced, on behalf of the Board, the publication of a new Opportunities policy. What this does is, for the first time, set out the approach that the staff take when they are approached by the media or a politician- and also some tips on how MSYPs can make the most of more opportunities in their area. Following a short consultation with our Members, I’m delighted to say this document has been finalised and is now available on the Members section of the website.

Another thing that I have been taking forward is engaging with some of the key political leaders in Scotland at a national and local level.

I am sure I don’t need to tell you just how tough a financial climate we are operating in, locally and nationally.

That’s why I have been out their talking to these political leaders and raising the profile of SYP at a national level, as well as all of the amazing work that you have been doing locally.

The purpose of these visits has been to ensure that, no matter how tough things get financially, support for SYP is not seen as an optional extra.

Each and every one of you play a critical role in representing the views of the young people in your communities.

We are supporting you in that work, by hammering that message home to the politicians, and ensuring that you are supported locally, and able to attend national events- like this one.
That’s why we have met with leaders of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Perth and Kinross Councils. Much of those discussions must be, out of necessity, confidential…but the reception we have had has been very positive and I am confident that they have helped secure and strengthen the continued support of our partners in local authorities, without whom none of our work would be possible.

Moving onto today, I want say a little bit about SYP Sittings, and this Sitting in particular.

Nothing defines SYP better than our Sittings. They are an opportunity for MSYPs from across the country get together and share the views of all the young people they represent on the hottest topics of the day. These debates define our policy agenda and give us a platform on which to engage with national and local politicians in the months and years that lie before us.

Sittings really are a safe space for you to share your views, so, don’t be shy: get up, stand up and get involved!

Please do remember that Sittings are an opportunity for everyone to share their views openly, honestly and respectfully.
Please make sure that you respect everybody else at all times, and remember that it’s OK for someone to have a different opinion to you. Also do remember to share your views, as Thomas said earlier, on social media, but, again, make sure you do so in a way that respects the views of others too, and there right to have their views heard.

Sittings aren’t just about the formal stuff, either. They are a chance for you to meet your peers and your friends, to chat about the work you have been doing locally and to hear from others what they have been up to.
Anyway, much of that will NOT be new to many of you, so, why am I telling you it?

Because we have some new faces here, attending an SYP Sitting for the first time. And I hope they won’t be too embarrassed if I welcome them individually before we go any further.

Welcome to:
• From Aberdeen- Jordan Rait, Ryan McQueen, Piotr Teodorowski and Erin Christie.
• From FOSIS- Junaid Ashraf and Sohaib Ashraf
• From Cunninghame North- Emily Eadie and Eilidh Macpherson
• From Dundee- Marc Winsland
• From Aberdeenshire- Emmie Main
• From North East Fife- Kirsty Rodger
A warm welcome from us all to each of you.

As I did at the last Sitting, I want to now briefly showcase some of the amazing work that MSYPs have been taking forward in their communities:

Firstly, Osama Nadeem MSYP. Osama got campaigning when he realised that there was an issue in his community about a lack of availability of reduced bus fares for young people.

He contacted his local MSP and the bus companies, and managed to get them to extend reduced fees for young people to 10pm at night, all of which got him on the front page of the Paisley Daily Express!

The Shetland MSYPs have also been doing some great work with their local airline, Loganair, to get them to introduce a package of reduced airfares for students.

And Heather Cameron, Adam Whiteside and other West Lothian MSYPs: Heather moved a motion at our last Sitting on the Millennium Development Goals, and, with the other local MSYPs approached their local MSP, Iain Gray, who agreed to draft a motion about the issue, which led to a Member’s Debate on the Scottish Parliament on the topic.

Amazing work, one and all, and just a snapshot of the fantastic work that MSYPs are doing in communities across Scotland each and every day.

Now onto the important business of today:

Later this morning, we will be sharing with you the all-important results of the Lead the Way consultation, that you all made such a vital contribution to. I cannot wait to see the results and to share them with you all.

Now, you will all know that we set ourselves a highly ambitious target for Lead the Way.

We will find out later today how we have done. Please remember that, whatever the final figure, we have all worked as hard as we possibly could to get there.

Also, later today we have our Holyrood 2016 hustings.

That session will be your chance to put the burning questions that you have to representatives from Scotland’s 5 main political parties, perhaps using some of the statements that have made it into the final Lead the Way!

Please do make the most of that opportunity and help us make sure that Scotland’s young people’s voices are heard loud and clearly!

It’s clear we have already done so much , and that none of it would be possible without us working together. The strength of SYP is in its partnerships and the work at a local level underpinning all that we do, and that by working together we truly make a difference to the lives of young people in Scotland.