Opening the floodgate: Referendum prompts demand for 16-year old votes

Peers argue the time is right to spread enfranchisement
Peers argue the time is right to spread enfranchisenment

By Charles Maggs

Campaigners have seized on the expansion of the franchise in the Scottish independence referendum to further their demands for 16 and-17-year-olds to get the vote.

A cross party group of peers is pushing for an amendment to the voting age (comprehensive reduction) bill which would lower the voting age by two years in all elections.

"It’s no good politicians simply wringing their hands about a supposed lack of political engagement among young people," said crossbencher Baroness Young.

"The young people I meet are highly engaged with political issues, but they see little connection with the big political institutions.

"Giving 16-year-olds the vote could help to repair that disconnection, and ensure those whose future will be most affected by the decisions politicians take today at least have their voice heard."

Opponents point to low levels of voter turnout among young people, while others suggest 16-year-olds are not mature enough to take on the responsibility.

However it would be politically difficult to give young voters a chance to participate in the independence referendum and take it away again in a general election the following year, should Scotland wish to remain part of the union. 

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