New Laws For Young Voters

18 June 2015, 07:35

ballot box

Legislation that will allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in future Holyrood elections and Scottish council elections is expected to be passed today.

The Scottish Government is making the change after the age group were given the chance to take part in last year's independence referendum.

The Scottish Election (Reduction of Voting Age) Bill will lower the voting age from next spring, allowing 16 and 17-year-olds be involved in May's Holyrood election.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the legislation, which has cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament, "provides a detailed, workable and practical framework to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to register for and vote in Scottish elections''.

Mr Swinney said: "Since we first proposed lowering the voting age, I have been extremely impressed by the thoughtful and passionate contributions that young people have made to the debate - Scotland's young people have made a persuasive case and should be extremely proud of that.

"This Bill will give young people a permanent voice on matters that affect them and I welcome the broad cross-party support there has been for our proposals.''

He added: "Our approach is in sharp contrast to the UK Government's plan for the forthcoming EU referendum, where 16 and 17-year-olds will not have the opportunity to participate, nor will citizens of most EU countries resident in Scotland. As the First Minister has outlined, this is something we will continue to push for.''

Liberal Democrat Alison McInnes will make a plea for the legislation to be altered so that Scottish ministers can decide if some young offenders can vote.

While prisoners are barred from voting in the UK, the Lib Dem MSP has put forward an amendment that would mean this would no longer automatically apply to 16 and 17-year-olds in secure accommodation or penal institutions.

The Scottish Government would then be able to decide the circumstances in which they may be able to vote in future Scottish and local government elections.

Ms McInnes said: "Allowing certain prisoners a vote can be an important step in encouraging them to take greater responsibility and to play a more positive role as they prepare to re-join the community.

"The primary aim of prison is rehabilitation. But if we are serious about building a fairer society then we must give prisoners opportunity to engage with society before they leave.

"My proposals give MSPs an opportunity to debate what kind of society we want to be.

"It is great that we are closer to giving 16 and 17-year-olds the vote but we must also consider young people who are too often trapped in the criminal justice system.

"I hope MSPs from all parties can have a considered debate about my amendment. Scottish Liberal Democrats believe it will build a more liberal, fairer society.''

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