The Prime Minister and First Minister have agreed the power to set the voting age in Scottish Parliament elections should be transferred north of the border
The voting franchise for Scottish Parliament elections should be extended to 16 and 17-year-olds in time for the next election.
During a meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday, Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed that the UK parliament will transfer the power to lower the voting age to Holyrood ahead of the 2016 vote.
The news was welcomed by Scottish Youth Parliament activists.
To ratify the move a section 30 order will be needed to transfer the legal power to the Scottish Parliament, with Sturgeon calling for this to happen by the end of January so that it gets to the final Privy Council meeting, on 19 March, before the break-up of the UK parliament ahead of the next General Election.
“The talks with the Prime Minister in Downing Street were constructive and cordial,” Sturgeon said. “Clearly David Cameron and I have big political differences and different views on the constitutional future of Scotland, but there was a real appetite on the part of both to find ways of working together in the interests of the people of Scotland.
“Following the meeting, I am confident that we now have the basis of a deal on the necessary devolution of powers to extend the franchise to 16 and 17 year-olds in time for the 2016 election, giving us the opportunity to build on the huge success of the engagement we saw in the referendum.”
We can't be complacent by assuming these powers will mean young people will be automatically engaged. A lot of effort went into engaging young people for the referendum and this needs to continue
The transfer of power over voting age is a result of campaigning by youth groups and charities over the last 15 years and comes hot on the heels of the success of 16 and 17-year-olds voting in the independence referendum.
Louise Cameron, chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament – which lead the campaign recently – hailed the news but called for politicians to continue to engage with young people.
“I am absolutely delighted that the powers to lower the voting age will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament in time for the next Holyrood elections in 2016,” Cameron said.
“However, we cannot be complacent by simply assuming that these powers will mean that young people will be automatically engaged. A lot of work and effort went into engaging young people for the referendum, and this needs to continue. If we get this right, and we can build on a very successful process of engagement seen during the referendum, we have the opportunity to create a voter generation of active, passionate and engaged citizens.”
The transfer of power to set the voting age is the first recommendation made by the Smith Commission on further devolved powers for Scotland to be met and both Sturgeon and the Prime Minister have agreed to look further at welfare reform in Scotland.
Sturgeon added: “Given the goodwill outlined by both parties during the discussions, there is no reason that the focus and desire to take forward this particular change so swiftly should not be extended to the rest of the commission’s recommendations.”
A No 10 spokesman said: "The PM made clear that he wants to work with the First Minister, forging even stronger ties between our governments and our parliaments and working together on the big issues for the future of Scotland and the United Kingdom."