Tuesday, 12 March 2013


This (below) is a piece by Malcolm Boyd, a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament.

I agree with him. And not because I think that young people will necessarily vote for independence. Far from it. I just believe that in Scotland 16 is an appropriate age to make decisions for your future.

You are considered old enough to marry, without permission from your parents,  and to have, and bring up children. Surely, if that, one of the most important things you will ever do, is permissible at 16, a vote to determine how your country is run, how you are taxed, how your children are educated, and how they are looked after health wise, is not unreasonable.

Of course, as Malcolm says in his piece, there are those who say that young people are not mature enough to make these kind of decisions. But, if that were true were true we should certainly have to put the age at which we vote and at which we are allowed to have children back a long way. (Which is more important: bringing a child into the world and raising it, or have a say, amongst many others, as to who your MSPs should be?)

I don't think that's necessarily true, anyway. Age is only one indicator in intellectual maturity. Many people in the 20s and 30s have little idea about politics. Some have ideas put there by their parents, which stay put even when they are mature themselves. I know old people who say that they will vote a certain way no matter what, because that was the way their mother and father voted... taking in to account none of the changes that have happened since their parents made their decisions. How mature is that?

As Malcolm says some youngsters are far better informed about politics than older people. They learn at school, and I've often thought that it's a pity that, having learned and left school it is another two years before they can put what they learned into practice.

Recently I was talking with a guy whose age I would have put at around 25. He told me he liked the SNP but was irritated by the fact that they had made all the sick people go through these tests...!!! When I pointed out that that was, in fact, the Tories in London, he asked me who they were...

On the same day I was talking to a 16 year old who asked loads of questions about independence, and the next time I saw him, he had made a note of further questions he wanted to ask. He was also discussing it with his mates at school.

Then there was the woman in her 50s who works at the local shop whose attitude was... "I dunnai ken nuthin aboot politics; I dunnai care either".  

Of course most people who say they don't care about politics, in fact do care. They care when VAT goes up; they care when their kids are sent to war in dusty countries  they care when their pension goes down; they care when electricity bills go up at 10 times their pay, or gas at 20 times their pay... Oh yes, they care, they just can't be bothered.

So let's encourage our young people to be interested in whatever party and whatever outcome in the referendum. They have longer to live in it that we do. This is not a partisan thing. Labour and the Liberals were with the SNP in wanting 16 and 17 year olds to be able to vote in the last referendum on UK voting systems. I've no idea why they changed their minds on this.

In this country, young people can marry at 16 but we cannot elect representatives who can choose who can legally marry each other.  We can join the armed forces but we cannot choose the government which chooses our battles.  We pay taxes yet have no influence and how they are spent.
At the age of 16 we are seen as mature yet not mature enough to vote.  We are citizens and as citizens we should be allowed to vote and not allowing us puts us in the same group as prisoners and Lords.  Young people want to vote and if allowed to vote, voting will become much more of a habit which could improve our low voter turnout.
Young people are victimised in the press and wider society yet do not have a way to reply.  Young people are looking for a reputable way to voice their opinions and voting will allow this to happen whilst also giving less of a reason to rebel.
People argue that 16 and 17 year olds are not well informed.  With subjects like Modern Studies, they are probably more informed then most adults who have not been taught about modern society.  Furthermore, laws made today will have the greatest effect on the young people of Scotland for the longest time.  The referendum for Scottish independence, for instance, will have a massive effect on the young people no matter what the outcome is.  Arguments about lack of intellect, competence and understanding were used in the past against extending the franchise to women, the working classes and 18-20s.
Young people are not just citizens, they are the future of this country and should have a say on that future.
Malcolm Boyd.


  1. They had this as their topic on Call Kaye this morning, I didn't listen to much of it, it started off with an 86 year old lady saying she didn't feel 16/17 yo's had the life experience to vote effectively or informatively, it was a theme that repeated for the short time I listened.

    The thing is, how much life experience can you get in your 16th or 17th year that would make you more informed when you're 18 and can vote currently?

    OK, some may get jobs (or not as the case may be) but how does that make them more informed about the political process and its affect on the job market for example?

    As an argument against, it doesn't make sense.

    I'd also say, a fair amount of the current crop of people who are of an age to vote, haven't been doing a stellar job of it, although again, until we solve the in-built unfairness in the UK constitutional settlement, it doesn't matter how old you are in Scotland, your vote for government won't properly count unless you vote yes in 2014.

    Which I think is ironic.

    For what its worth, you may know I spend a fair bit of time with 16 & 17 yo's and until I started engage them in conversation about independence, they had no views, I don't think they would've voted at all.

    Now though, its entirely different. I'd like to think they'd vote yes because its the right thing to do, I suspect some may vote yes because I'm sort of telling them to do it...

    Still, better they vote yes because I'm telling them than them voting no because they swallowed the lies being ejaculated by Better Together.

    I am unashamed and unrepentant. ;-)

  2. I suppose, Pa, that it is understandable that an 86 year old would think that a 16 year old didn't have much experience. But as you say, when they dropped the Uk age from 21 to 18 I'm sure there were plenty who thought the same thing. As you say what are they going to learn in 2 years that will make them different.

    Some 86 year olds probably think that 55 is too young to have a proper opinion on stuff. And some 55 year olds ARE opinion-less.

    In my opinion, if you can legally bring children into the world, you can legally vote, or not vote, as you wish.

    There are many 16 year olds who don't care, don't know and won't even know the vote has taken place. Others may learn from their parents, or youth leaders or teachers or the bloke down the road. Some on both sides may be marched to the polling stations and told what to vote, I suppose, if their parents feel strongly enough one way or the other. (Not something I'd advise, because you dunno what they will do at that last moment when they are alone at the booth)!

    If I'm talking to people I try to be balanced, and I do list the advantages, as listed by David Cameron, of staying together. I'm not sure anyone is ever really impressed by lists of embassies and the 4th largest military spend in the world, but that's what Call Me says is important, so I always let them know about it.

    I must have converted 8 or 9 now, although only one was 16.

  3. Tris

    If you want to see some of the MSM spin at its worst how about this one.


    Looks like the MSM know the game is up now and the Yes campaign will just keep climbing and climbing. Its not even spin any more just straight misrepresentation, or whatever else you want to call it.

  4. Tris

    Here is another one.


    Though this one is tame by the Daily Torygraph standards. Just think The Guardian won the most lurid headline contest, who would have thunk it?

  5. SNP trying to gerrymander the vote. First they try to rig the question, now they try and fill the booths with their little SNP youth.

    Bravehearts better get their hankies ready, 'cos the Union will still be here in 2015.


    1. Independence day will be in March 2016.

  6. yes Dubs. The point is of course theat this is perfectly reasonable. It's the curl in the lip way they report it, like we were extracting the names of young children and selling them to advertisers.

    The UK government has all these details anyway to pay child benefit and the councils will hold information for children as young as 5 who go to school.

    The UK government has notoriously lost this kind of information over and over, by out sourcing stuff to America. We are only going to use it for election card printing.

    They make me sick.

  7. Dean:

    Was Labour trying to gerrymander the vote when it called for 16 year olds to be allowed to vote in the referendum that Cameron held?

    Why do you think that 16 and 17 year olds are not sensible enough to vote but 18 year olds are?

    Do you think it is reasonable not to be able to vote, but be allowed to have children?

    Instead of picking a silly argument with the SNP and sneering at what is a good idea, why don't you argue the points.

    You're beginning to sound like Willie Bain. "If the SNP suggests it it is obviously a bad idea, I don't care what it is."

  8. Dean, you're talking mince again.

    Fifteen year old's are already being added to the electoral register, I was added when I was fifteen, its definitely not a new thing.

    The difference is, you don't get a voting card until after your 16th birthday and if you turned up to vote, you'd get turfed out.

    Oh look, another unionist non-story.

  9. tris

    i didnt realise the idea for 16 and 17 year olds was a snp one I actually thought it
    was credible after all we all wish as many Scots as possible would take an interest
    the Governance of their Nation .

    obviously now i know it was proposed by the snp

    I am agin it as a bad idea............just call me a bainite

  10. Pa: I'd like Dean to explain why he doesn't think it's a good idea. Many kids are very interested, once they know what is at stake. Others don't give a stuff, they won't vote, but then I know people in their 40s and 50s who won't vote because they couldn't care less...

  11. Ahhh Niko the Bainite ...

    Yes, it was actually Labour's idea, but when the SNP said it was a good idea, Oor Wullie decided it was a bad idea. He's utterly predictable in these things.

    How's Taz anyway?

  12. Dean and Niko think that only those that have a headstone should vote no matter their age.

  13. tris

    sleeping as usual


    ridiculous every one should have a vote............a Labour one that is all others
    should be classed as defaced

  14. He he... Good one Niko.

    CH: I'm still waiting for Dean, who descibed this as some sort of cynical ploy of the Nats to inveigle little children to vote YES, to tell me why he thinks it's a bad idea.

    I'd love to debate these things, but all we get are statements of sneer against whatever YES does, with no intellectual substance behind them. You can't debate a statement like that except to say, no, it isn't.

    Willie Bainland.

  15. I suspect the reason he doesn't like it is because he's a status quo-ist, any thing which differs from the current set up is anathema to him.

    I think this is a problem for many unionists, anything which rocks what they see as their delicate apple cart is to be regarded with extreme distaste.

    With that in mind, can I suggest Dr Spencer Johnson's seminal book 'Who Moved My Cheese' on dealing with change. This exceedingly stupid book was presented to us (in the form of a cartoon) at a recent away day, If I said it was pitched low, well, low doesn't quite describe it.

    Suffice to say, I feel it would suit a great many unionists who shiver at the thought of change, here's a taste of Who Moved My Cheese:

    "The more important your cheese is, the more you want to hold on to it."


    "Old beliefs do not lead you to new cheese."


  16. I should imagine that 15-16 year olds who take part in modern studies in school would be among the most informed when it comes to voting but I suppose it's up or down to whoever is doing the teaching. I've met 16 year olds who are well informed but I've met sixty year olds who are clueless eh? Niko?

  17. LOL @ Pa. Did you ever discover who moved your cheese?

    Furthermore, did you find to where he or she had moved it.

    This is serious stuff. In an independent Scotland we can't have people going around moving other people's cheese. Why not, I ask, if you feel the need to move cheese, move your own cheese?

    One last question: What kind of cheese was it?

    Oh ...one final last question: Was it a big cheese?

    Tris gives a cheesy grin :) and accepts that Pa has a good point about status quoism, but wonders about the wisdom of sticking to the status quo when your head is being hit with a hammer.

  18. Exactly, John. Age doesn't necessarily (although it can) bring wisdom.