Scotland

Scottish Youth Parliament elections launched

Teenagers
Image caption The Youth Parliament aims to get more young people involved in the political process

The largest-ever elections to the Scottish Youth Parliament have been formally launched.

Almost 300 candidates are standing for 146 seats, with voting due to take place between Monday and 15 March.

The youth parliament was set up in 1999 to provide a forum for young people to discuss political issues and give them a voice in the parliamentary system.

More than 84,000 votes were cast in the last elections in 2011.

Candidates, who are all aged between 14 and 25, will spend the next two weeks campaigning for votes in their local authority areas.

The voting is organised by each local authority and varies across the country, with some having ballots open from Monday until 15 March, while others are only open for some of that period.

Young people who are eligible to vote will be able to cast their ballot at polling stations set up in many schools across the country, or online by using their Young Scot card.

The Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) can have as many as 200 members, including 146 constituency MSYPs. It meets at least three times a year at national sittings.

Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) chair Grant Costello said the past two years had been the most successful in the parliament's history.

"We have taken the issues which matter to young people, on equal marriage, votes at 16 and the Scottish living wage, and made Scotland's leaders listen and act," he added.

"It's now time for a new membership to be elected. For the first time, MSYPs will be elected from every local authority in Scotland.

"We've had more interest from young people than ever before, more candidates than ever before and I am sure we're going to have an even stronger membership elected this time.

"That's crucial because the challenges facing Scotland's young people are enormous."

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met the current batch of MSYPs at Holyrood on Saturday to mark the start of the election campaign.

She said: "It is through youth work and youth participation organisations like the Scottish Youth Parliament that hundreds of thousands of young people across Scotland are accessing a wide range of activities that help them to build knowledge, capacity and skills in preparation for further learning and employment.

"We want to make sure that our young people today have the right to engage in Scotland's democratic process.

"We want to give them the right to voice their views freely and confidently on all matters that affect them.

"We believe 16 and 17-year-olds should be able to vote in all elections and we will be ensuring that they can vote in the referendum on Scotland's future next year."

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