At sixteen, individuals can get married, pay their taxes and sign up to risk their lives in our armed forces, but they cannot exercise their basic democrat right to vote. Isn’t it time that we follow in Scotland’s footsteps and introduce a lowered voting age of sixteen? I and the Lib Dems think yes and we are determined to fight for this in this Parliament.
The 2017 General election saw the largest youth vote in 25 years, finally discrediting the narrative that young adults are either too lazy or immature to vote. We can, however, do better. By extending the franchise to those 16 and 17 year olds we can expand our national conversation to some of the most disenchanted and side-lined individuals in our nation. The 2014 Scottish referendum for example brought thousands of young scots into the fold, now we are experiencing some of the highest youth turn outs in Scotland for generations. The ability to inspire at a young age has resulted in greater engagement at elections since. We currently have over one and a half million sixteen-seventeen year olds in the UK, to be able to inspire even half of these individuals to continue voting would result in a significantly higher turnout than many of our past elections. Such a generational shift could even change the age-old story of pensions before education which has shaped the political world for many years.
On the topic of education, many critics of this idea have suggested that teachers and schools will be able to exercise influence over individuals. As a former teacher myself, I can say that all my colleagues entered the profession to educate not control. I prided myself on being fair and unbiased individual, there to facilitate open debate. My job was to equip them to make their own decisions. Any suggestion otherwise is a slight on the whole profession.
To those who suggest that sixteen-seventeen year olds are just not ready for the vote, who think they are just not matured enough for this responsibility, I suggest they look no further than our Youth Parliament. It is here, a place with children as young as eleven, that you will find some of the most passionate and inspiring individuals. It certainly puts some of my own colleagues to shame. This is by no means an isolated occurrence, young adults across the country are increasingly aware and involved in politics. It is these young adults that will one day contribute to our pensions, staff our hospitals and pay the taxes which our government needs. Therefore, it is necessary that we act in their best interests to secure our countries future.
Our young adults are ready to take the reins, to have a say in a future which will be dominated not by us but by them. Therefore, I fully support the lowering of the voting age to sixteen. Let’s change the old proverb of out of touch youths and create a new generation of political aware and enthused young adults. Let’s get inclusive and work towards a better future for all generations.