Saturday, 1 November 2014

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Liberal Future Debate 1 – Should We Lower The Voting Age Throughout the UK?

In September’s Scottish Referendum 16 and 17 year olds were allowed to vote for the first time. Liberal Future asks: Should we lower the voting age throughout the UK?

LIBERAL FUTURE – the youth wing of the National Liberal Party – found September’s Scottish Referendum fascinating for two main reasons.

Firstly, it gave the people of Scotland the opportunity to vote on their constitutional position within the United Kingdom. The referendum – for all of its faults – at least enabled the electorate to have something of a say in the future direction of Scotland. How many other nations have been allowed this freedom?

And secondly, the voting age for the referendum was lowered 16. This was remarkable because under current legislation, UK voters must be 18 or over. At the moment it’s unclear if the lowering of the voting age in Scotland was simply a ‘one off’ – or maybe some form of catalyst which sees it being extended to all elections.

However what is clear is that the lowering of the voting age (for the Scottish Referendum) meant that thousands of youngsters were politically engaged for the first time. Indeed, according to a BBC report – http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/29279384 - of the 3.6 million Scottish voters who turned out, more than 100,000 were 16 to 17-year-olds. However, it could be argued that this healthy turn out by youngsters was due to the ‘novelty factor’ of being allowed to vote for the first time rather than a real interest in the democratic process.

Liberal Future recognises that there are many pros and cons attached to lowering the voting age.

For instance, youngsters can be easily swayed by ‘celebs’ and the – seemingly – all pervading influence and power of modern Politically Correct pop culture. They generally also lack any real understanding or experience of the ‘real’ world. However, 16 and 17-year-olds can be incrediably idealistic and are not as likely to be open to electoral bribes from the establishment parties. And allowing youngsters to vote would also allow many more people to take part in the democratic process.

With all of this in mind, this first Liberal Future debate asks: Should we lower the voting age throughout the UK?

• FOR more information about Liberal Future – the youth wing of the National Liberal Party – click here: http://nationalliberal.org/liberal-future-%e2%80%93-a-manifesto-for-our-youth

• To check out Liberal Future’s Facebook page click here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/706779429376233/

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