Scotland politics

Scots parties clash in young voters' debate

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Media captionThe Social Debate with young Scottish politicians

Scotland's political parties have clashed in a debate aimed at winning over young voters ahead of the general election on 8 June.

With polls narrowing, experts say the votes of young people will be "absolutely crucial" in the contest.

BBC Scotland teamed up with The Social to host a debate with young politicians taking questions from an audience of people aged under 30.

They highlighted issues including housing, human rights and homelessness.

Taking part in the debate, which was streamed live on Facebook and Twitter, were the SNP's Stewart McDonald, Labour's Pam Duncan-Glancy, Conservative Kirstene Hair, Lib Dem Kris Chapman and Green MSP Ross Greer, attempting to win over a panel of young voters.

The key topics discussed focused on engaging young people in politics.

Prof John Curtice of Strathclyde University said the turnout rate among the young could be "absolutely crucial" in the election.

He said: "One thing we know from every single election about younger voters is that they are less likely to vote. And therefore how many of them turn up to vote, whether they abstain in the kind of numbers they did in the last election or whether they turn out in rather high numbers this time, could well in truth determine or have a significant impact on the outcome of this election."

Discussing political engagement in the debate, Mr McDonald said: "My experience is that young people are generally quite well tapped into the issues in a way that perhaps older generations aren't. Young people tend to be more broad and open-minded on the issues, and the more time we spend engaging them the better."

Mr Greer, who was elected as Holyrood's youngest MSP aged 21, said: "When I was elected, there were some people saying 'how can you possibly be a politician at that age, you don't have enough life experience to know what you're talking about. But our parliaments are supposed to represent all of society - they're not doing that if they're full of white men over the age of 50."

Ms Hair said it was "really important that you engage with young people", and said she had seen more young people involved in Tory campaigns in recent years.

She also said Ruth Davidson had lobbied Tory colleagues at Westminster to reduce the voting age in UK-wide elections to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote.

Meanwhile Ms Duncan-Glancy said her party was standing on policies aimed at engaging young voters.

She said: "The manifesto we have put forward for this election is a manifesto for young people. We've got policies to be proud of, which is why you'll see a lot more from Labour on social media on what we'll do for young people."

And Mr Chapman said future generations were the "most powerful tool in society", saying it was important to invest in them.

He said: "It's all about engaging young people and representing them and making sure they have a voice at all levels of parliament and politics."

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