At 21 Declan Welsh has become the youngest member of the Children in Scotland board. Born in Rutherglen and raised in East Kilbride he is currently studying law at Strathclyde University. From renationalising the railways to ending child poverty he has big plans - all to be carried out while following his passion of being a singer/songwriter.
What made you decide to give some of your spare time and get involved with Children in Scotland (CiS)?
I decided to get involved after speaking in Perth (at the Children in Scotland Annual Conference in November) for them. They seemed to be really on board with having my voice involved in shaping things, which was an absolute honour. To be a part of the CiS team will allow me to have a direct effect on the lives of children in our country in a way that protests and writing (though both necessary and worthwhile) just wouldn't allow.
What are you hoping you can achieve?
I hope to learn, first and foremost. I think by being around people who have worked in this sector I can begin to understand what we do right and wrong, and the best avenues to change things. I hope to be a part of an institution that can force the hand of government into making the right calls, and the ultimate goal has to be to eliminate child poverty in Scotland.
What are the biggest issues facing young people in Scotland today?
I think that young people feel like their voice isn’t heard. It’s harder than ever to find a job, and when young people leave school they often find that they have no option but to take unpaid or low wage jobs. The current economic climate was caused in no way by young people, yet young people bear the burden the greatest. I think that finding work that pays fairly and is rewarding is not an option for far too many young people. That has to change.
Child poverty is an utter embarrassment in a country as wealthy as ours. People are angry over a lot of trivial things, but everyone should direct that anger at this. We have people born into poverty. Does that not make you sick?
Do you think it’s important for 16-and 17-year-olds to have a voice in Scotland today?
I wholeheartedly agree with allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote. If you can go and fight in a war on behalf of your country, you should be able to ratify or oppose that decision made by the government of the day in a polling booth. Young people inherit whatever world the older generations give them, so they have to have a say in what decisions they make.
Do you have any thoughts on child poverty and what we could all be doing to help alleviate this?
Child poverty is an utter embarrassment in a country as wealthy as ours. People are angry over a lot of trivial things, but everyone should direct that anger at this. We have people born into poverty. Does that not make you sick? I think that empathy and compassion have to be brought back into public discourse. We’ve had 30 or so years of different shades of the same style of government, one which has faith in banks and corporations to provide a stable growth which will in turn benefit us all. In this period, inequality has risen year-on-year and shows no sign of slowing down. Society isn’t dead, but it has taken a beating. We need to heal those wounds with compassion.
A wand is waved and you are made First Minister for the day. What do you do?
Some question! The first thing I would do is reach out to the forgotten communities of Scotland. They need to be empowered. I think my one goal as a hypothetical First Minister for a day would be to get normal people involved in the decision-making process. It should be every politician’s duty to encourage participation in democracy. You need to get out to every community, build that trust, build those relationships, educate in the schools and in the workplaces to let people know that nobody should be running the country but them. I reckon I’d do that, and renationalise the railways. How that hasn’t happened yet is beyond me.
Declan Welsh was speaking to David A. Findlay editor of Children in Scotland magazine.