Arguably, the most positive aspect of the Scottish referendum debate was the engagement of young people in politics and the message this sent out to those who normally see young people in the context of negative stories. By allowing 16-17 year old’s to vote we can clearly see that this increased the levels of political literacy and engagement; over 80% of young people in Scotland were registered to vote. Among my friends I certainly saw an intense passion for each position of the debate.
Recently the Welsh government praised Blaenau Gwent Council for their pro-active approach to participation in its borough and have been subsequently invited to share good practice for this service across Wales due to its success. A grand council was established to enable young people to voice their views and access information on issues that affect them. This has links to the National Youth Advocacy Service and Talk It Up – a successful youth forum within Blaenau Gwent.
According to a joint report by Cardiff University, the Institute for Welsh Affairs and Tomorrow Wales the majority of young people in Wales are more likely to vote don’t know to devolution. But what if a referendum was take place immediately here in Wales, would we see the same results? When young people are empowered through access to information this will certainly be more likely.
Therefore, the clarity of over what is and what isn’t devolved to Wales is urgently required. On this issue a Welsh government spokesperson stated “We want Wales to be a vibrant democracy which fully engages with all parts of society, including young people” Here, the complexity of the current settlement is a barrier. Perhaps this could be solved by taking inspiration from Blaenau Gwent Council through enabling more participation in the decision-making process.
It is vital for the success of any future implications of the Scottish Independence referendum that young people are provided the opportunity to be part of it. Through the Scottish referendum they have clearly earned the right for their voice to be heard and demonstrated how significant it can be if they are empowered.