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Voting age in Scotland: Can 16 and 17-year-olds vote on May 6?

Courier News - Dundee  - Louise Gowans story - CR0017188 - General voting day pics, shots of people heading to the polls. Picture shows; voters heading into and out of a polling station in St Andrwews, Canongate Primary School, St Andrews, 12th December 2019, Kim Cessford / DCT Media.
Courier News - Dundee - Louise Gowans story - CR0017188 - General voting day pics, shots of people heading to the polls. Picture shows; voters heading into and out of a polling station in St Andrwews, Canongate Primary School, St Andrews, 12th December 2019, Kim Cessford / DCT Media.

The voting age in Scotland means sixteen and 17-year-olds are again allowed to vote in the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections.

Anyone aged 16 or 17, with a Scottish address, is allowed to vote in Scottish-only elections, including the election in May, as well as local council elections.

This has been the case since the voting age was lowered in 2013, in time for the independence referendum of 2014.

In the 2014 referendum more than 100,000 young people aged 16 or 17 cast their vote. This decreased slightly during the 2016 Scottish parliament elections with approximately 80,000 16 and 17-year-olds registering to vote, according to the Electoral Commission.

Boris Johnson Scottish independence

Where else can 16-year-olds vote in Europe?

The Isle of Man became the first place in Europe to have a voting age of 16, in 2006, before Guernsey followed in its steps in 2007. Austria was next, in 2011, before Scotland did the same two years later.

Greece’s minimum voting age is 17, although no other European countries have a minimum voting age of less than 18.

However, while 16 and 17-year-olds can vote in Scottish-only elections, the UK Government have rejected the opportunity to allow anyone younger than 18 vote in UK wide elections.

UK opposition parties such as the SNP, Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Greens are in favour of reducing the age in UK-wide elections, but former Prime Minister Theresa May ruled out the change in the run up to the 2017 UK election.

Despite this, the Scottish Conservatives are clear that they are in favour of the voting age being reduced to 16 for UK wide elections.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May didn’t want the voting age reduced below 18.

Parties agree on voting age in Scotland

Cameron Findlay, chairman of the Scottish Young Conservatives (SYC), says the Scottish Conservatives are are in agreement with opposition parties on reducing the voting age.

“The Scottish Conservatives strongly believe that 16 and 17-year-olds should be given the opportunity to vote in Scottish elections,” he says.

“During the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, a generation of younger voters were politically inspired, and research suggests that 75 per cent of 16 and 17 years used their right to vote.”

The SYC chairman added that he, and his party, believe that 16 should be the voting age for UK-wide elections.

“The Scottish Conservatives are fully supportive in ensuring 16 and 17-year-olds get the opportunity to vote within every Scottish and UK-wide election.

“These voters are the future of our country and our communities, and we strive to ensure their voices are fully heard.”

voting age in Scotland
The Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh.

The youth wing of the SNP, Young Scots for Independence (YSI), is in agreement with the Conservatives.

Chloe Henderson, a youth officer in the YSI, says: “At the age of 16 people can start their own families and live legally by themselves. If they are trusted to do this then surely they should be trusted to have a say in democracy, on who represents them and on issues that will affect them.

“I feel that the UK should reduce all voting ages down to 16, as it is at that age that people start to really consider you an adult.”

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