Why I Say Yes To Votes At 16

Hey everyone It may come as a shock to some of you to know this, but less than a week after the referendum I have committed my first political act of this brave new dawn by signing a petition on Monday afternoon.

Yes I know, some of you will think this is hardly big news after all I should probably list signing petitions as one of my hobbies in my entry for who’s who along with leaflet distribution, attending demonstrations and taking the rip out of the establishment at every chance I get. However this is probably one of the most important signatures I have ever put on any document and whether you like it or not I’m going to tell you why.

The reason this petition is so important is because it goes right to the heart of the democratic process. Votes for 16 is something I have always believed in and the reason is I think simple to explain. I believe that if our youngsters are old enough to get married, old enough to work and pay taxes and old enough to fight and die for your country then you are most certainly old enough to vote to decide who you want to rule the country you live in. So when my friend Caron Lindsay brought this petition to my attention let’s just say I didn’t really need to be persuaded.

It seems I have good company in this struggle as both the outgoing First Minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond and UK Labour Party Leader Ed Milliband have voiced support for the idea after the idea was given a trial run in the Scottish Independence Referendum and proved to be far more successful than many people thought in terms of capturing voter interest and the level of turnout with regards to this particular demographic. This is a move also supported by the Liberal Democrats and The Green Party who have had it as a long standing party policy.

No doubt those opponents of the change will inform us that you can’t drive or buy alcohol at 16 and that you would no doubt be hopelessly politically naïve at that age and just vote for whatever party your mum and dad voted for.

This argument is not only insulting to the young people of both Scotland and The United Kingdom, it is fatally flawed as it assumes that both parents in every relationship will vote in the same way. The people who make such assumptions had obviously never met my parents as they disagreed on almost every major political decision in my lifetime. So I want to know how the opponents of this change would factor in variables such as the mitigating factor with which I have presented them.

These people also claim and in my view falsely that younger people aren’t interested in politics. This I have to say is nothing less than disrespectful drivel and I find it repellent to use such an argument against the extension of the democratic franchise. I wonder if the opponents of progress have ever stopped to consider the fact that if there argument is correct and I don’t for a second believe that it is, then the reason younger people may not be interested is precisely because they do not feel they have a voice.

The belief that all young people are apathetic and would sooner watch reality telly such as Big Brother and the X-Factor is not one I would be willing to put to three of Scotland’s brightest voices in the referendum campaign. Saffron Dickson and Liam O’Hare both of whom campaigned for a yes vote and Alison Clark-Dick who campaigned equally passionately for a no vote. These three young campaigners were fiery advocates for their respective campaigns which would have been so much poorer without there involvement. It is for there future I signed this online petition to lower the voting age and I am very proud to have done so.

It goes without saying that any proposed change will come too late for the General Election of 2015. So let me make my position very clear. I want next year’s election to be the last of any kind in these islands where 16 and 17 year olds are not given the vote. After all they voted in there thousands in Scottish referendum last week and they voted so there voices could be heard. They were often more intelligent, articulate, and better informed than people three and four times their age. So my challenge to Westminster is to make politics relevant to the young people in these islands and do it by giving them their say in the decision making process. This to me would represent not only faith in democracy but also faith in our youth as by lowering the voting age you may raise the bar in terms of real democracy and give the next generation a real stake in the country’s future.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

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