MSPs as young as 16 under proposed Holyrood reforms being reviewed by Government

Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament give evidence to a Holyrood committee in 2018 <i>(Image: PA)</i>
Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament give evidence to a Holyrood committee in 2018 (Image: PA)

YOUNG people from the age of 16 could be voted in as MSPs and councillors under plans being considered by the Scottish Government.

The voting age was lowered to 16 ahead of the 2016 Holyrood election, but the age for candidacy remains 18.

The Scottish Government has now opened a consultation on a series of electoral reforms.

Under the proposals, candidacy rights could also be extended to foreign nationals who have the right to vote.

But the consultation document acknowledged there may be challenges with 16 and 17-year-olds running in Scottish Parliament elections - including raising concerns about young people having to live in Edinburgh away from their families or carers because of Holyrood's working hours.

READ MORE: East Lothian 'winter wonderland' branded an 'absolute shambles'

It also noted that holding office at such a young age could harm a 16 or 17-year-old's education.

It says: “Enabling 16 and 17-year-olds to stand for election could be argued to raise potential wellbeing concerns, such as the potential exposure of young people to intimidation (eg in the form of hate speech or on the campaign trail).

“Working hours at the Scottish Parliament and in local councils could also be a potential concern for 16 and 17-year-old representatives.”

Minister for parliamentary business George Adam said: “A robust electoral system is fundamental to the success of Scotland being an inclusive and vibrant democracy that makes everyone feel included and empowered.

“It is important as many people in our society as possible feel they have an effective and independent means to hold government to account and also feel encouraged take an active interest in politics and civic life.

“The measures set out in this consultation are wide-ranging and include key questions on how best to improve the accessibility of elections and to promote electoral registration.

“We will consider all responses very carefully before deciding on our next steps.”

READ MORE: Judge rules in favour of Scottish Government over definition of 'woman'

Meanwhile, the Scottish Green Party - who also back lowering the candidacy age to 16 - argued that voting rights should be extended to asylum seekers who are resident in Scotland.

MSP Mark Ruskell said: “Everyone living in Scotland should have a say on how the country is run.

“The Scottish Parliament and local councils should always aspire to truly represent all the people and voices that they serve.

“That has to include people seeking asylum, who are hugely impacted by decisions that they are not able to vote on.

“When people come to Scotland seeking safety, they should be given the same right as all of us to shape the services and government around them.

“We should also take the opportunity to fix the inequalities in our electoral franchise and ensure that our democratic structures look more like the people that they represent.”