EU referendum result shows the case for votes at 16 is irrefutable

Written by Katie Burke on 28 June 2016 in Comment

Scottish Youth Parliament Chair Katie Burke MSYP says the call for votes at 16 cannot be ignored in the wake of Brexit 

Katie Burke - credit Scottish Youth Parliament

Many young people in Scotland are bitterly disappointed by the vote to leave the EU on Thursday. We know from our manifesto consultation Lead the Way, which was based on 72,744 responses from young people across the country, 66 per cent believed Scotland should remain a member of the EU, while only 11 per cent disagreed.

We remain deeply frustrated that 16 and 17 year olds were denied a vote on such a crucial, generation defining issue. That sense of frustration is felt particularly acutely in Scotland, where young people of that age group are permitted to vote in Scottish elections and referenda, yet not in UK ones.

Young people across the UK will be affected by this decision for many years to come, and it is fundamentally unfair that so many of us were not allowed to express a view on it.


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It also remains a supreme irony that an estimated one and a half million 16 and 17 year olds across the UK were denied their say in the referendum, yet the difference between the vote for leave and remain was only 1,269,501. If those young people had not been denied the right to have a say on their future, the result may have been different.

However, we must now look, constructively, to the future, and ensure that young people are meaningfully involved in debates about the constitutional future of this country.

That is why this morning I have written to the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and asked her to ensure that representatives of the Scottish Youth Parliament are part of the discussions that are about to begin about the future of Scotland in the context of the EU.

The Scottish Youth Parliament has a unique democratic mandate to represent the views of all of Scotland’s young people. We need to have a seat at the table to ensure those views are heard. The First Minister and her Government have been strong supporters of SYP and youth participation in politics, most obviously by ensuring that 16 and 17 year olds could vote in the independence referendum and Scottish elections. We are therefore hopeful that she will respond positively to our request.

I will also be writing to the next Prime Minister of the UK to urge him or her to ensure the voting age is reduced to 16 for all future elections and referenda, and ensure that the mistakes of the last few weeks do not happen again.

Katie Burke is MSYP for North East Fife and chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament

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