As one of the youngest MPs in Westminster, it seems fitting that my website should have a page dedicated to young people. When I speak to young people in schools in East Dunbartonshire, a real sense of enthusiasm and interest in politics comes across. However, when it comes to getting involved in politics – be it through political parties, charities or other means – it seems interest often starts to wane.
Is this because young people really don’t care about the future of politics in this country? Of course not! Often the problem can be knowing where to start, how to get involved, or how to figure out your own opinion on the big issues such as Iraq and the environment.
This page is intended as a starting point for the young people of East Dunbartonshire; an introduction to the possibilities that are out there for making real change happen. It is also a call to action – if you see a problem, look for a solution; if you have an opinion, make sure it’s heard. In other words, don’t hang around – get involved!
Kirkintilloch Skatepark offers an excellent example of how young people can come together to make a difference to their community and achieve their goals at the same time. A group of young people in Kirkintilloch decided in 2003 they wanted to go about setting a skatepark built in the town, so they set up the Kirkintilloch Skatepark Initiative (KSI). They lobbied politicians – including me – and they raised £500,000 through grants and fundraising events in order to pay for the work needed to build the park.
The park was finally completed and opened in 2009, and it is now a much-loved and well-used facility for the young people of the area.
Fore more information, please see the news stories below.
Jo’s news stories on Kirkintilloch Skatepark
Young people getting involved
Votes at 16
The Internet has some great educational resources on offer. The following websites cover some crucial aspects of politics in Britain and are designed to be accessible to young and old alike. Politics need not be complicated!
- www.dopolitics.com – A site run by the Electoral Commision to encourage young people to get involved in democracy. Has some great resources as well as information about voters and voting.
- www.electoral-reform.org.uk – Website of the electoral reform society, an organisation dedicated campaigning for the widespread implementation of Single Transferable Voting. Explains the characteristics of different voting systems and outlines the case for Proportional Representation.
- www.theyworkforyou.com – Fantastic site which lets users view their MP’s voting record, alerts them when they speak in Parliament and keeps a concise record of the business of both houses. Also features a handy glossary for getting to grips with Parliamentary terminology
- https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/prime-ministers-office-10-downing-street – Website of the Prime Minister’s Office. Includes some good educational information on the Prime Minister and Cabinets’ roles as well as guides to legislation and government.
- http://www.parliament.uk/education/about-your-parliament/ – Website run by the Parliamentary Education Unit explaining what goes on inside Westminster
Votes at 16
The time is right to lower the voting age to 16. The lives of 16 and 17-year olds are as rich and varied as at any other age, and involve considerable responsibilities and complex decisions that are unrecognised in their current democratic rights. I have recently called on the Government to use the Electoral Administration Bill to legislate to lower the voting age to 16 for all public elections in the UK.
Many youth-led organisations, such as Votes at 16, have been campaigning for a reduction in the voting age.
The Votes at 16 Campaign is targeted at the Government, but also seeks to influence Parliament, the devolved institutions, the Electoral Commission, local councils and councillors, the media, academics and the general public. The campaign believes that the most effective case for change is to be made by young people themselves and young people led organisations will be at the heart of the campaign. To find out more go to www.votesat16.org
Young People Now – Positive Images Campaign
Young People Now holds annual positive image awards, which are open to youth groups, young people, local authorities and media outlets, and aim to “celebrate positive portrayals of young people in the media, and proactivity among youth groups and councils in promoting affirmative images of young people.” To find out more, visit their website via the link below.
Edinburgh teenager Josie Vallely has been causing a stir as a young, energetic and outspoken campaigner on environmental issues. Josie has received praise from Bob Geldof for her charity work and was recently crowned CosmoGIRL 2005 after caring for African refugees in her own home. Check out Josie’s site for adivice on doing your bit to look after the environment:
‘Help Yourselves’ is a Here to Help awards scheme being run by Save the Children and British Gas, which aims to get young people involved in dynamic and lasting community projects. Awards of up to £3,000 are on offer, with 91 new projects around the country already having received funding. For more information, including how to apply for their awards scheme, follow the link to their website below.
Junction 49 is a social networking web site like Facebook, specifically designed for young people aged 16-25 who want to make a difference by volunteering. Young people are able to create their own volunteering opportunities by setting up projects around issues that really matter to them. If they don’t want to set up a project of their own they can join and offer to help on existing projects created by their peers.