Stephen Williams MP has recently brought forward a motion about extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds: this means that the House of Commons will debate the issue on 24th January. In 2005 his motion on the topic failed by just 8 votes. As such, it’s exceedingly important that as many MPs who support votes at 16 attend the debate and vote if possible.
Liberal Youth Scotland has been strongly pushing for votes at 16 for all referendums and elections this year, starting with our Freshers’ Week postcards. In light of the fact that the SNP must now deliver on the commitment, agreed by Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore, to give 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote in the independence referendum, the argument that they are not mature enough to make important political decisions does not hold. If they can help decide about an issue of such importance as Scotland’s future, they should be able to participate in all other referendums and elections as well.
Currently, 16 and 17 year olds in the UK can marry, leave school, get a job and pay taxes as well as join the armed forces. When young people contribute to society in so many ways, we believe it’s imperative that they are granted the right to vote so they can represent their views at the ballot box and take part fully in the democratic process. Extending the franchise means younger voters are given the opportunity to represent their own issues, instead of relying on older voters to do it for them.
Liberal Youth Scotland, with the help of Liberal Youth, are calling on members, activists and supporters of Votes at 16 all across the country to help raise the profile of this debate by getting in touch with MPs to ask for their support. We hope the independence referendum has been the catalyst to ensuring Votes at 16 becomes a priority for the government. Please help us to open up the debate by signing our petition, lobbying MPs on Twitter and Facebook or use our letter template on the LYS website to contact your MP to ask for their support.
* Hannah Bettsworth is an Executive Member and Jenny Marr is Vice-President Communications of Liberal Youth Scotland