16 and 17 year olds in England and Wales have every right to be disappointed

This week the Scottish Parliament and Westminster both pass a Section 30 Order. Section 30 is the bit of the Scotland Act 1998 which allows powers to be given from Westminster to Holyrood. Two years ago a Section 30 Order gave the Scottish Government the power to hold the referendum on independence. This week’s transfers the power to the Scottish Parliament to give 16 and 17 year olds the vote in the next Holyrood elections which take place in May 2016. It will have to be confirmed by the Privy Council in March but that’s just a formality.

This means that young people in Scotland will have a say on the way their health, education, transport, justice and housing systems are run. We know that giving young people the vote was a massive success in the referendum. My heart swelled up seeing them head into the polling station with real excitement and pride on 18th September. There is surely no excuse for denying them the say at any level. Scottish 16 and 17 year olds will be able to vote at Holyrood and local elections – but when it comes to Westminster, they will have no say. Of course this could all change if the next Parliament legislates. They surely can have no excuse to delay.

You can tell that Alistair Carmichael was really chuffed to bits when he made the announcement about the Section 30 Order.

I’m delighted to confirm a timetable has been agreed for 16 and 17 year olds to vote in future Scottish Parliament elections.  I’ve always been a firm believer in votes at 16, with the sheer number of young people participating and voting in last year’s referendum I believe the case has become undeniable.

If I were a 16 or 17 year old in England or Wales, I’d be pretty annoyed that I wasn’t getting a say in the direction of my country. Liberal Democrats across the whole of the UK are committed to making the change. We can tell that from the exchange at Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions between Nick Clegg and Charles Kennedy.

Mr Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (LD):

Will the Deputy Prime Minister take this opportunity to acknowledge that one of the singular successes of the Scottish referendum campaign was the engagement of new first-time voters from the age of 16 and above? Given the imminent general election, will he encourage local authorities throughout the United Kingdom to build on that groundswell of young people’s engagement with politics—I cannot believe, and I am sure my right hon. Friend does not, that what happened in Scotland is not a reflection of the level of potential interest that exists throughout the rest of the UK as well—with a view to building, perhaps in a future Parliament, what Holyrood is likely to do for next year’s Scottish elections and extending the franchise for House of Commons and all levels of parliamentary elections in the future

The Deputy Prime Minister:

I strongly agree with my right hon. Friend. I hope that those who doubt the wisdom of moving towards extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds—there are, of course, some in this House who still doubt it—will look carefully at the experience of the Scottish referendum, which mobilised huge public participation not only across all communities and age groups, but, perhaps most especially, among 16 and 17-year-olds. I think that any doubts anyone might have had about the wisdom of extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds should be dispelled by that experience. I, like my right hon. Friend, look forward to a time when we have genuine cross-party consensus about giving all 16 and 17-year-olds across the United Kingdom the right to vote.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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5 Comments

  • Peter Chegwyn 20th Jan '15 - 11:38pm

    ’16 and 17 year olds in England and Wales have every right to be disappointed’ says the headline.

    Surely what’s even more disappointing is that 16 and 17 year olds in Scotland had the right to vote in the Referendum but most of them won’t have the right to vote in the General Election.

    Having given them democracy and then taken it away again will it be any wonder if Scottish 16 and 17 year olds feel even more angry and disillusioned than their English counterparts in May?

    Yes they may be able to vote in Scottish Parliament elections in 2016 but having been told they were old enough to vote last autumn it’s plain daft to then say they’re not old enough to vote eight months later.

    As Caron says: ‘There is surely no excuse for denying them the say at any level.’ Especially when they’ve already been allowed their say once, only to be denied it when they are eight months older.

  • Surely after eight months two thirds of the 17-year-olds will be eighteen?

  • If you voted to stay under the thumb of the Westminster Parliament and all its eccentricities, you should stop complaining about what they do to you in Scotland.

    At least you had a chance to escape. You just made the wrong choice.

    Some of us in England who would love to escape the sclerotic Westinster excuse for a Parliament, cannot understand why only 45% of you voted for freedom and new opportunities.
    You campaigned and voted for Westminster rule and that is what you have got.

  • Impressive that you manage not to even mention the SNP, never mind give them a nod for initiating this change; nor do you mention that it has cross-party support in Scotland. Naturally the Lib Dems are going to be the focus on Lib Dem Voice, but surely the generosity to give some credit where it’s due would increase your credibility?

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