With British politics so often being compared to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, perhaps it would be prudent to continue this motif with a very appropriate quote.
“Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it,” – Tyrion Lannister
At the June Annual General Meeting of the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP); former Scottish First Minister and current MP Alex Salmond was invited to speak to MSYPs; a speech I was able to watch thanks to modern smartphone technology and one MSYP filming in the audience.
In his speech, amongst other things, he made a very convincing point about the Votes@16 debate – It was over. Done. Finished.
On the 18th September 2014, when 75% of 16 – 17 year olds in Scotland went to the polling stations to cast their vote on their nation’s future, every counter argument against Votes@16 fell apart.
YouGov’s vote analysis revealed that the 16-24 age bracket were the most evenly matched at 51% for No, and 49% for Yes showing it was young people who made the most reasonable judgments.
There is a law in the philosophy of science that once an assertion has been contradicted, it is no longer a viable hypothesis. (Common sense, right?) And so, the arguments being put forward by forward by Government and some MPs from the opposition are not viable hypotheses.
The claim that 16 – 17 year olds are not engaged enough in politics has been proven wrong; the claim that 16 – 17 tear olds cannot make informed choices on politics has been proven wrong; the claim that 16 – 17 year olds will not bother to turn out has been proven wrong.
Critics of Votes@16 have been proven wrong.
And yet, they continue to oppose. And how? Denial. It’s not that they simply plead ignorance in the case of the Scottish Independence Referendum, instead, they just ignore the case. When SNP MPs raise the point again and again, no counter claim can be given, the question is merely avoided.
The upcoming EU Referendum already seems to be mirroring the Scottish Referendum in many ways. It is a very fundamental question about what a nation is, how a nation should be governed and what a nation aspires to be. The people will answer these questions – and again, emotions will be heightened.
In 2014, 16 – 17 year olds were deemed mature enough to answer these questions. Yet somehow, 16 – 17 year olds are not deemed mature enough to answer them in 2016/2017. As Alex Salmond stated in his speech to the Scottish Youth Parliament; a Scottish person who had just turned 16 in 2014 would have been allowed to vote in the referendum, not allowed to vote in the General Election of 2015, turned 17, will be allowed the vote in the Holyrood elections of 2016, and if the EU Referendum is in 2016, they won’t be allowed to vote in that.
It’s essentially electoral hokey-pokey; in-out-in-out-shake it all about. Is this really how seriously such important questions of suffrage are taken?
Now these arguments are not merely ‘British’ or ‘Scottish’ arguments that should affect only British and Scottish politics; they are universal arguments. In Austria, Votes@16 is already a reality, in Malta Votes@16 is a reality in local elections, the European Youth Forum and National Youth Councils all over Europe are calling for the same thing.
If 16 – 17 year olds can turn up to vote in large swathes in Scotland, they can do so in France, they can do so in Denmark, they can do so in Greece (who are about to vote on perhaps one of the most important matters in Greek history, shouldn’t 16 and 17 year olds be a part of that?)
With the House of Lords set to fight tooth and nail for Votes@16 in the EU Referendum, it looks likely that it just might become a reality. If so, the European Union really should keep in line with progress. If 16 and 17 year olds should be allowed to vote on the future of the European Union; they should be allowed to vote on who enters its parliament.
The European Union can play a leading role in the world on this; behind South America, Europe has the most countries opting for Votes@16.
At the end of the day, the debate around Votes@16 is over, the opponents have lost, it is time that they accepted the truth, accepted defeat gracefully and help make the way for Votes@16 in the UK, in the EU, and eventually, in every democratic nation.
To get involved in the Votes@16 Campaign http://www.votesat16.org/get-involved/