September 14, 2014 Leave a comment
On Thursday (September 18th) we have the most important vote within these isles for many years – some say since the union three hundred years ago. The future of the United Kingdom as we know it today is at stake. This vote, on Scottish independence, is significant for electoral reformers too as sixteen and seventeen-year olds are being allowed to take part.
I have long been an advocate for votes@16, and I am calling for the voting age to be lowered for all UK elections.
It is redolent of the American Revolution where the rallying cry was ‘no taxation without representation’.
At 16, young people are considered old enough to get married, start a family, pay taxes, and can join the armed forces – yet they cannot choose their democratic representatives.
If Scottish sixteen-year olds can be entrusted with a say as to the future of their nation then so can their English, Irish and Welsh counterparts. If we want our young people to be responsible citizens then we need to trust them to be a part of our society.
Citizenship lessons have been compulsory at all schools since 2002, and an Electoral Commission poll found that over 70% of 16 and 17 year olds were in favour of voting. In Scotland, where younger voters may sway the referendum results, more than 80% of 16 and 17 year olds had registered to vote.
At a time when we are seeing apathy in electoral politics, and ever lower turnouts, it makes no sense to shut out some of the most enthusiastic Britons from the democratic process.