Monday, 21 September 2009

Voting for the future

I'm proud that the SNP has long held the policy of extending the franchise to sixteen and seventeen year-olds. It is, as far as I'm concerned, the final democratic deficit in our electoral system. If you subscribe to the right of this age group to vote, you ought to believe in it for every election.

It's consistent and logicical therefore that the SNP advocate a vote for this age group in the independence referendum. This has recently been confirmed by Michael Russell in a letter to Scotland's youngest MSP, Aileen Campbell. Fellow blogger Euan Purchase made the initial inquiry, which he talks about here.

Linda Fabiani put across the case succinctly and reasonably on the Politics Show on sunday, saying:

"We have young people in this country who really are in tune with politics, they are entitled to get married, they pay taxes, why can't they vote?

"This referendum's about Scotland's future - these young people are Scotland's future, so, to me, it's perfectly logical, perfectly right they should be asked to vote in this referendum."

By contrast, Pauline McNeill looked sour and petty, giving no real reason why not. She denied it was because young people might be more inclined to support indepenence, saying this view was predominately held by older men. The suggestion by Jeff that the principle is the main thing seems to have escaped Ms McNeill.

All the arguments against this proposal seem to be forgetting that extending the franchise has been our policy for years, accusing us of opportunism, and some even practially suggesting the idea is invalid because it's come from the SNP. According to the Votes at 16 coalition's website, it's also the policy of the Labour party and the Lib Dems, not that you'd know it from their responses.

Reform of the voting age has been on the agenda for ages, out for consultation and a response made, but I would very much doubt that Gordon Brown will agree to any changes before the General Election. Labour have had twelve years to change this, and have delivered nothing at all. The taxes paid by those under-18s over the years must be quite considerable by now.

The newspapers also seem to hum and haw curiously over the issue, taking the Labour line on opportunism - yet surely if any party suggests extending the franchise, this could be seen as a chance to woo younger voters? Given that there are elections almost every year, when is the right time to extend the voting age? If you were to follow the sore-bum-from-sitting-on-the-fence-so-long line of the newspaper editorials, the real opportune moment for our disenfranchised young people will never come.

The Press and Journal:

"There is much to be said for involving people at a younger age in the voting process, but that should be taken in the round and not on one narrow stage."

The Scotsman:

"There is a serious case for lowering the voting age, but it should be debated in depth, as a major constitutional reform, it should not be different for different votes. This move, despite the strong arguments in its favour, should fall simply because it is political opportunism."

The Herald:

"There are sound arguments for enfranchising 16-year-olds. The decreasing turnout at elections is a democratic deficit which must be put right and engaging young people at an early age is the best hope for the future, but party politics should never dictate such a significant change."

*UPDATE* I've just come across Joan McAlpine's rather excellent blog, which has this article quoting Gordon Brown's views on Votes at 16. Demonstrates Labour's opportunistic hypocrisy on this issue rather well!

1 comment:

joan mcalpine said...

Thanks for directing your many readers to my piece. Enjoy your postings. Missed the story of the gas find, most encouraging