Willie Rennie backs plans to give 16/17 year olds vote for Independence Referendum

One of the many good things, as I wrote last year, that Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore delivered in the Edinburgh Agreement was a provision to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the referendum on independence. He was pleased to be able to persuade the Coalition Government to agree something which had long been Liberal Democrat policy. To be fair, it had also been SNP policy.

Yesterday, the SNP Government, whose responsibility it is to legislate for the referendum, introduced their Bill to extend the franchise to include 16 and 17 year olds. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie welcomed the move, saying:

Giving sixteen and seventeen year olds the vote in the independence referendum is an important step in our efforts to build a fairer society. Scottish Liberal Democrats will be proud to support this move and hope that it will open the door to wider reform across the UK.

In the debate on whether Scotland wants to remain in the UK there are high stakes at play for young people. I know from taking part in debates across Scotland on the same issue that young people will make for some of the strongest inquisitors for both campaigns.

Liberal Youth Scotland have been campaigning for 16 year olds to have the vote in all elections. Their President David Green added:

Today is a historic day for young people in Scotland. Lowering the franchise from 18 to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the independence referendum lets young people be fully engaged in the democratic process and play their part in shaping their own future.

Liberal Youth Scotland has long campaigned for Votes at 16 and is proud that Scotland is taking this step which we hope will be the catalyst to introduce this for all elections across the UK in the future.

We need to work out what we can do as a party to use this to build the case for wider reform.

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

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