European young councillors meet in Edinburgh
Young councillors and mayors from eleven countries have visited Edinburgh for a conference on youth participation and engagement.
Thirty-three delegates, mainly mayors and councillors under 35 years old, from across Europe discussed how to tackle challenges affecting younger people such as social inclusion, youth unemployment and dissatisfaction with public life with European and Scottish experts.
They also looked at barriers and best practice to enable younger people to stand in local elections and become councillors.
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The conference, which was entitled ‘The challenges of youth participation and active engagement in Europe: towards a better coordination between levels of government’, was organised by COSLA and the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR).
COSLA president Councillor David O’Neill said: “Participation, particularly by young people, in local decisions is one of the key challenges to achieving a thriving local democracy.
“And we in Scotland can undoubtedly learn a few things from other countries that have higher turnouts at local elections and a much wider scope of ages standing and being elected as councillors.
“But there is some great work being done In Scotland to empower young people and this event is an opportunity to showcase what is being done by ambitious youth work organisations.”
In addition to speakers from European institutions and networks, including the Council of Europe and the European Youth Council, and representatives of other European countries, a significant part of the event was devoted to the Scottish experience in youth participation in local civic life.
Young Scot, the Scottish Youth Parliament, the Electoral Reform Society and the Improvement Service discussed recent breakthroughs in youth participation such as reducing the voting age to 16 in Scottish parliamentary and local elections and the Scottish community planning model, both quite unique in Europe.
The meeting was chaired by Councillor Mairi Evans, CEMR spokesperson on youth issues and COSLA’s representative on the CEMR executive, and closed by Marco Biagi MSP, Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment, who talked about the Scottish approach to youth participation and community empowerment.