1.5 million 16 and 17 year old denied a vote in the EU Referendum

The British Youth Council and Votes at 16 Coalition are disappointed to see the Government have denied 16 and 17 year olds a vote in the “In Out” EU Referendum due to be taken in 2017. The vote follows our sustained campaign which calls on the Government to change its mind and allow the voting age to be lowered in what is set to be a historical vote.

Three weeks ago the Government published the European Union Referendum Bill and has since declared they will not stray away from ‘Westminster franchise’ despite adapting it so Lords can vote. Young people proved during the Scottish Referendum, that when they’re given the chance, they will use their democratic right to shape the future of their country.

Pressure has been mounting on David Cameron and the Government in recent months with the Green Party, Labour, SNP and the Liberal Democrats all making their support for the campaign clear. In a passionate speech today Dr Sarah Wollaston MP for Totnes said “”we need to give young people a voice and a vote….we should accept they have the capacity to make these decisions”

Mita Desai, Chair, British Youth Council said: “Every single argument against votes at 16 has been proven wrong. Surely the logical next step was to give them their democratic right to vote? Unfortunately not. When 16 & 17 year olds were given the vote in Scotland, they proved what we already knew – they were passionate, interested and mature enough to take part. Common sense has lost and the Government have chosen to silence the voices of 16 & 17 year olds over their future despite giving their friends in the House of Lords an exclusive opportunity to take part in the historical vote. To say this is disappointing is an understatement. The British Youth Council will continue, as we always have, to fight for this right.”

The British Youth Council, which has been campaigning for the enfranchisement of 16 and 17 year olds since 1998, will be continuing to call on opposition parties to continue the pressure at every stage of the bill. The block has came not long before the news that 16 and 17 year olds have been given the right to vote in all future in all future Holyrood elections and Scottish Council elections.

Ife Grillo, Vice Chair of Campaigns and Communications, British Youth Council said: “It saddens me that the mass calls for Votes at 16 for this referendum have been ignored. So many politicians, adults and young people have come together to campaign on this issue and the fight is not over. We will keep pushing for Votes at 16 in all elections and to make sure decision makers start to listen to young people”

The British Youth Council strongly believes that after decades of changes in our attitudes and vales resulting in amendments to the enfranchisement of more and more people, like women in 1918 and 18-24 year olds in 1969, that lowering the voting age is a late but necessary change in our voting system. In report published earlier this week, even the leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davison MSP, has come out in support for votes at 16 declaring she was “unable to agree” with those who were opposed to the extension of the franchise.

Proof that the UK is ready for votes at 16 is mounting up, with the Youth Select Committee report released last year, ruling that now was the time to implement measures for all public elections and referendums. This coupled with the recommendations of the Electoral Commission, which after careful analysis of the Scottish Referendum outlines what should be considered in the event the franchise is amended to include 16 and 17 year olds means we have both the demand and expertise to repeat this again for the EU Referendum.

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