Votes at 16

One of the most delightful parts of my jobs is talking about being an MP with children; on their visits to Parliament and when I go to local schools. We always discuss the issue of the voting age and I ask them if they would support bringing the voting age down to 16. Without fail, and whatever age the group, the majority of hands going up are to support votes for 16 and 17 year olds.

Last Friday I gave my support to my colleague Jim McMahon in Parliament. He brought a bill to Parliament which would give 16 and 17 year olds the vote in the next general election and in other elections too. Unfortunately the Tories sabotaged Jim's attempt to give them a true voice in who runs our country by making long speeches in a previous debate. This means that the bill was not put to a vote and it means it's pretty unlikely this bill will become law. The Tories have shown once again how dismissive they are of the young generation of this country - a generation which they refuse to take seriously.

I agree with my young constituents and believe that 16 and 17 year olds are mature enough to be able to vote. I know that because of the interest and knowledge they demonstrate about current (and future) affairs. Scottish 16-17 year olds were able to vote in the independence referendum, and like their peers in Norway and Austria actually have higher turnouts than 18 to 24 year-olds. Many young people tell me they were so upset they couldn't vote in last year's EU referendum, because their future is bound up in the UK's future and place in the world.

So why shouldn't 16 and 17 year-olds take an active part in the world around them? They have as much at stake than over 18s. 16 year-olds still have two more years living at home, going to school locally, using local services (such as still exist!). They talk about politics at home and at school. They are the first generation to have received citizenship education, yet are denied their full rights as citizens. Giving them the right to vote would allow a seamless transition from learning about voting, elections and democracy to putting such knowledge into practice. If anything they have more local connection than 18 year-olds many of whom are about to, or are already, flying the nest by going to University, moving away to work or to travel.

If young people are registered early and get into the habit of voting early, we will see lasting improvements in turnout. Those who vote when young, continue the habit throughout their life.

Votes at 16 is supported by all the main the political parties, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, but not the Conservative Party. I hope the Conservatives will change their policy, and all 16 and 17 year-olds will have the right to vote in the next General Election.