Today the Scottish parliament voted to allow 16 and 17 year olds a vote in General and Local Elections held in Scotland. Those elections involving other UK countries will retain the UK rules for voting of 18+.
Ironically at the same time the Westminster parliament voted to not allow 16-18 year olds the right to vote in the upcoming EU referendum, despite the enormous effects that the outcome may have on their lives.
Cameron, at one point in the referendum campaign, rather patronisingly told us that whilst a vote in the General Election was only temporary, and that in 5 years’ time we could tell the Tories to “F off”, a YES vote was a decision forever; there would be no going back.
Although, of course, nothing can be said to be forever, at least in the short term he was right.
But, surely a vote to leave or stay in the EU is the same. There will be no going back, at least not in the immediate future, if we decide to leave. And leaving a union, whether the UK or the EU, doesn't happen overnight.
If the UK votes “out”, then by the time that the necessary administration is done, these 16 and 17 year olds will almost undoubtedly be 18 year olds with their university education and working lives ahead of them. It’s surely their business as much as it is ours whether they work in or out of the EU.
The bid to overturn the Tories’ backward looking rules was led by Labour and the SNP, for once working together to try to pull the UK into the 21st century.
SNP MP Stephen Gethins said that there was overwhelming evidence from the Scottish independence referendum that extending the franchise for 16-year-olds was a good thing for democratic participation.
When you listen to some of the arguments against widening the franchise, you have to wonder what planet the MPs are living on.
One Labour rebel, Barry Sheerman (above), claimed that allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote would make them 'adults' and therefore more vulnerable to sexual abuse.
Clearly the fact that they can leave school, get married and have children, go to work, live separately from their parents …sometimes on the streets… and pay taxes, seems to have escaped his notice. I’m just guessing that this may have more of an influence of their sexual behaviour than the right to vote! For the life of me I can’t work out why he reckons that casting a vote would open them up to sexual abuse. However, who knows about those things when it comes to planet Westminster.
There was also anger in Westminster that EU nationals will be banned from voting. This time the government had Labour’s support. Strangely there is an exception made for Republic of Ireland nationals. I’m not sure how they are allowed to pick and choose like that, but apparently they can. But then why Irish? Why not Lithuanians, or Maltese?
Unlike in the Scottish referendum, ex patriots will be allowed to vote. So, even people who have lived here for 20 years, and are married to Brits, won’t be allowed a say in their future. And people who were born here but live in America, or Hong Kong will. Once again this contrasts with the Scottish referendum which allowed people who lived in Scotland the vote, but those who had chosen to make their lives elsewhere were excluded.
Scotland 21st century; UK 19th.