Alison Johnstone on Votes at 16

Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian and a member of Holyrood’s Devolution (Further Powers) Committee, today expressed hope that allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in next year’s Scottish Parliament election could lead to a similar change being made for UK elections.

Alison spoke this afternoon in the Stage 1 debate on the Scottish Elections (Reduction of Voting Age) Bill, highlighting the positive engagement in politics experienced by 16 and 17 year olds during the independence referendum.

Alison also commented on publication today by the UK Government of the Scotland Bill, which still appears to fall short of the package of powers outlined by the Smith Commission.

Scottish Green Party co-conveners Patrick Harvie MSP and Councillor Maggie Chapman took part in the cross-party negotiations last autumn, securing agreement on proposals including devolution of fracking licenses, energy company obligations and the power to bring railways back into public ownership.

On the Scotland Bill, Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“The details of what the UK Government has proposed will be closely scrutinised but clearly in light of the general election result the range of further devolution proposed by Smith deserves to be revisited. During the devolution committee inquiry we found shortcomings in the proposed legislative clauses, and I am not convinced that the new UK Government has taken the time to reflect that.

“There still appears to be restrictions on the kind of benefits the Scottish Parliament could create, and I’m extremely concerned that the clauses relating to the Crown Estate make it hard to see how local communities could have real control. Instead of tidying up a previous proposal to double-stream the Crown Estate it now looks like these assets will be bound to the Crown Estate Act 1961 which demands that they are run on a commercial basis. Our land and renewable resources should be in the hands of our communities to be used for the common good.”

On Votes at 16, Alison said:

“Giving 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote in the referendum was a hugely important step for democracy in Scotland. By extending and promoting participation in politics we can ensure higher turnouts in elections, which all parties must welcome.

“Given the huge responsibilities young people have, it seems bizarre not to allow them to vote as standard. I’m strongly of the view that once we approve Votes at 16 for next year’s Holyrood election we’ll see the UK Parliament coming under pressure to make a similar move for the next Westminster election.

“Young people are our future and we should take every opportunity to engage them in politics.”

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