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Scottish Youth Parliament hit by spate of resignations

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Nine elected MSYPs have quit since September with claims morale is at an all-time low

The Scottish Youth Parliament has been rocked after nine MSYPs including its vice chair Ewan McCall quit in recent weeks.

McCall, the MSYP for Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley, stood down in September claiming he was quitting the organisation for reasons that have led to morale among some members to hit an all-time low.

The MSYP, who is studying history and philosophy at St Andrews University, claims debate is “stifled” and power is “centralised with the board” leading to some members having to implement and defend changes they stood “vocally against”.

“We often call ourselves the democratically elected voice of Scotland’s young people, but not all young people speak with one voice,” McCall said in his resignation letter.

Views are trapped, debate stifled and opinions constricted by a web of policy to which we must conform or be disciplined

“We have different opinions, we have different ideas, we are diverse in that we have many different voices.

“In an organisation where the 51% rule, diversity is the victim and we are all made voiceless at some point.

“Views are trapped, debate stifled and opinions constricted by a web of policy to which we must conform or be disciplined.

“This is no way for us to present the future of politics.”

In recent days, a number of fellow former MSYPs have been reported as saying they left for similar reasons.

McCall – like those who spoke out elsewhere – however refused to stick the knife in to the organisation which formed in 1999 and clearly feels it has an important role to play.

For the majority of the time he said he felt a “sense of pride and accomplishment” in his work adding the organisation had helped him build skills, confidence and character.

"I count each and every member of the board as a friend and will continue to do so after my time in SYP, but professionaly the decisions made have extinguished the passions that led me to the position of vice chair," he added.

The parliament’s biggest success has to be its campaign which saw 16 and 17 year olds allowed to vote in the Scottish independence referendum and can now vote in Scottish Parliament elections.

Currently made up of 138 elected young people aged from 14−25 from every parliamentary constituency in Scotland, as well as representatives from various voluntary organisations, the parliament has also campaigned for marriage equality, the living wage, carers’ rights and better mental health service provision.

A rights-based organisation, grounded in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the structure of SYP is entirely youth-led, with the board of trustees comprising entirely of MSYPs elected to those positions by the entire membership.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Youth Parliament organisation confirmed to TFN that nine MSYPs have resigned since September and that it is looking in to the public feedback some had given but could not comment on individual cases.

The spokesperson did, however, confirm that as a result of a request at its sitting last weekend, the organisation has now created a survey for all current MSYPs to enable them to provide feedback about the direction of SYP, and other strategic organisational elements.

“As an organisation we believe that young people should participate and be heard throughout all decision-making process that affect them. It is therefore vital that the Scottish Youth Parliament exists to uphold this mandate,” she said.

“As MSYPs are all young volunteers, resignations are a regular occurrence, and by-elections are a held to fill vacant seats.

“There are a number of reasons why MSYPs resign, including new responsibilities at school, university, or in the workplace.

“Some former MSYPs have provided feedback regarding their reasons for resigning.

“It is the policy of the Scottish Youth Parliament to take on all complaints and feedback.

“All complaints that we receive are taken very seriously and investigated thoroughly, in line with our procedures.”

Many current and former MSYPs have publically shared their support for the organisation since news of disquiet broke.

Thomas McEachan, MSYP for Glasgow Pollok, said: “The Scottish youth Parliament changed my life for the better and I couldn't be prouder to be a part of this wonderful organisation!”

David McLaughlin, former MSYP for Bute, said: “I had a fantastic time as an MSYP. Great opportunities and met so many great people!”