Scotland politics

Plan to cut voting age for 2016 Scottish election

Ballot box Image copyright PA
Image caption Lowering the voting age has won widespread support

Holyrood could be given control of its own elections in time to give 16 and 17-year-olds a vote in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election.

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael is considering a fast-track transfer of the powers from the UK to Scotland.

The Smith Commission on further devolution recommended the move in its report last week.

Mr Carmichael will discuss the issue with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon when they meet on Thursday.

The secretary of state told the BBC civil servants were looking at the options, adding: "If we can find a way, then we'll work with the Scottish government to make sure that this happens.

"I see no reason why if Scotland's two governments work together with good will and determination that this could not be done in time for the next elections in 2016."

Sixteen and 17-year-olds were able to vote in the independence referendum.

'UK change'

Mr Carmichael described their participation as a "truly outstanding success" and said he was "determined" to keep younger voters involved.

"We want you to remain part of our political process," he said. "We don't want you just to be put back in your box."

All five political parties at Holyrood support extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds for Holyrood elections.

In the Smith Commission agreement they said: "The parties call on the UK Parliament to devolve the relevant powers in sufficient time to allow the Scottish Parliament to extend the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds for the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary elections, should the Scottish Parliament wish to do so".

This age group will not be allowed to vote in the 2015 UK general election, but Mr Carmichael said change in the voting age in Scotland would inevitably lead to change across the UK.

It is not clear what mechanism would be used to give Holyrood the power to change the voting age for devolved elections.

It may be the UK government would use a so-called "section 30" order which avoids primary legislation.

This mechanism was used to lend Holyrood the unequivocal legal authority to hold the independence referendum.

Ms Sturgeon made clear her commitment to votes for 16 and 17-year-olds in the Scottish Parliament last week.

Delivering her programme for government speech, she said: "If the necessary powers are transferred in good time to this parliament, my government will bring forward legislation to extend the franchise and allow all 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the 2016 Scottish election."

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