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Young people are put off voting

This opinion piece is over 8 years old
 

​Louise Cameron, chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament, explains why politics is such a turn off for Scotland's young people

Louise Cameron MSYP, chair, Scottish Youth Parliament
Louise Cameron MSYP, chair, Scottish Youth Parliament

Does your future matter to you? What issues are there in your area? What is important to you?

These are some of the questions I have been asking young people in my local area to help them to understand why they should utilise their vote and to escape the typical turn-off of politics.

I believe a key factor in encouraging youth participation is to help young people recognise how politics has an impact on their everyday lives, even if they don't realise it.

Young people can often find it difficult to immediately understand the relevancy of politics as it is portrayed by traditional political parties, and sometimes the national media. This can make young people completely disengaged and often puts them off getting involved.

With the referendum fast approaching, this is a crucial time to ensure young people can relate to the issues being discussed and recognise why the referendum debate is relevant to them and their future. Removing the word politics creates the space to have a discussion they can often find more interesting, relatable, and easier to speak about.

We are at a time in society where we, as young people, are making progress in terms of the voting age and civic participation. It is therefore so important that we grasp every opportunity to encourage young people to have their say about issues which are important to them, and ensure they have access to the information they need to participate in democracy as active and engaged citizens.

It is so important that we grasp every opportunity to encourage young people to have their say about issues which are important to them

This is why it is so important for us, the Scottish Youth Parliament, to direct young people to sources where they can access impartial information to enable them to make their own educated decision.

A challenging barrier to engagement is the extent to which young people feel like their opinions are valued and can actually make a difference. To ensure young people are as engaged as possible and enthusiastic about having their say through casting their vote, we must ensure the importance of their involvement in democratic debate is recognised.

I believe there is a responsibility on politicians to engage more meaningfully with young people, on their terms and in an environment that is comfortable for them. The referendum has provided them to begin to recognise the benefits of actively engaging with Scotland’s young people, but these efforts cannot simply stop after the ballot papers are counted this September. We need to maintain and strengthen this engagement for all elections.

For me, encouraging participation is not just about encouraging young people to have their say in this one decision. It is an opportunity to captivate an entire generation and encourage young people to continually make their voices heard through the ballot box. As the chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament, I want to ensure young people can embrace the many opportunities to truly have a say over the political landscape affecting our everyday lives as young people.

Louise Cameron MSYP is chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament. Follow her on Twitter @weezeontoast.

This is part of a series of TFN articles that focus on the #Missingmillion people who are not intending to vote in the Scottish independence referendum on 18 September.

 

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