Parliament: October 2009 Archives

Why votes at 16 matter.

| | Comments (15)
youthvote.jpgI've got in my hand a flyer given out by Scottish Youth Parliament activists on the Gude Cause suffragette march the weekend before last. It lists what sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds can do, or can be made to do. 

They point out that this age group can be tried in court as an adult, join the army, own their own home, and pay taxes, but not vote. 

It's a persuasive argument, even if discrimination against the young is in one sense more egalitarian than discrimination against women or members of ethnic minorities. We were all young once, even Bill Aitken.

The reason I'm so committed to this cause is a little different, though.

Last year we had a young man in our Holyrood office on a work placement arranged by his school. These can be a bit high maintenance and sometimes of dubious value, but he was smart as hell, immediately got the basics of writing a press release, and fitted in from the start. He was also very politically aware, and pretty passionate.

He was fifteen at the time, and he had done the sums. He knew he'd turn eighteen in 2011, just a couple of months after the next Holyrood election, and wouldn't get a say in a Scottish election until he was practically twenty-two, seven years away.

Another very good friend of mine is in a similar position. He'll be a year and a month too young to vote in the 2011 elections, and (assuming the next UK cycle is four years long) he'll be in his twenties before he gets to vote either for Westminster or Holyrood. He'll just miss the 2012 Scottish locals, too, so won't get to vote for his local councillors until he's almost twenty-three.

Like our work placement friend, he's very politically literate, very knowledgeable and passionate about the issues. But politicians can safely ignore him as long as the voting age remains at eighteen.

The idea you can vote at eighteen is, after all, awfully contingent on there being an election on your eighteenth birthday, and the current arrangement means a lot of people in their twenties will have had no opportunity to vote for at least one of the levels of government that matters. Just wrong.

"Votes at sixteen" is therefore slightly misleading, although I see why they chose it. Plenty of people much older than that will get disenfranchised too, and the problem is much wider than people normally think.

Some patronising fools claim we can't trust these young people to vote responsibly. Just as with the older generations, though, many of those who don't care or don't know anything about politics simply won't vote at all. And who are we to say what a responsible vote is anyway? Let the (young) people decide for themselves.

Greens : Nats :: Nats : Tories?

| | Comments (10)
equations.jpgAlex Salmond is away this week at the Alex Salmond Annual Conference 2009, and everyone sounds like they're having a lovely time counting their chickens ahead of the UK General.

The Maximum Eck therefore went on GMS this morning to set out his strategically sensible but odd-sounding ambition for this election: a hung Parliament. 

Brian Taylor captures the thinking perfectly. The comparison to Steel's "go back to your constituencies" line may be brutal, but, as BT observes, this approach is much smarter because it excuses Salmond from having to admit he'd love nothing more than a Cameron victory. Apart from a Thatcher victory, that is. Fortunately it's just him and Norman Tebbit on that one.

The SNP attitude to the rest of the UK is changing pretty fast. Salmond said last week that Westminster would be "hung by a Scottish rope", a stark contrast to the more charming line he took before the last Holyrood election. Back in 2007 he said England and Scotland would be "the best of pals, the closest of buddies". I prefer my pals not to try to hang me with a rope, but I'm sure Kevin Pringle knows where he is on the message calendar.

Last year, at the midpoint of the transition from best pals to hanging with a rope, Salmond said he'd "make Westminster dance to a Scottish jig". That might still sound like a relatively friendly metaphor, but note the compulsion. It actually reminds me more of the brutal ending of Snow White, where the evil queen has to dance in red hot iron shoes until she dies

In Salmond's the cause of death is now hanging, not dancing, but dead is still dead. If you like you can also pick a role from Snow White for the First Minister to play. Anyone picking Bashful will be laughed at.

Back to his appearance on GMS. This morning he said that:

"A Scottish block would be influential regardless of the outcome of the election. What I think is true is that a balanced Parliament, a Parliament without an overall majority would be the most influential, give us the most ability to extract concessions and win gains for Scotland. 

"I think there's no doubt that in a Parliament without an overall majority, then if you have a block of MPs then you can achieve fantastic things, and I only point out that of all the politicians in these islands I am probably the one with the most experience of minority government. I'm on the receiving end of it. 

"Obviously, if you take the first Budget the SNP brought in last year then the Green Party with two MSPs were able to have an extraordinary influence because we're a minority government, because it's a balanced Parliament."

(on iPlayer until next week, roughly 2 hours and 10 minutes in)

I remember that Budget. What happened is that a small opposition party (that's us) brought forward an eminently sensible and pragmatic proposal, but an overweening minority administration tried to bully them into accepting something negligible and almost entirely different. When that bullying failed, the Budget fell

What exactly the SNP actually learnt from this process it would be good to know. Was it that larger parties tend to get their way in the end? Pleasing as it is for him to tell a UK-wide audience that Greens are influential, the fact is that he turned us over and the policy never happened.

The equation doesn't hold for other reasons too. Our only objective in the Budget talks he refers to was a policy one, to get the idea implemented, to cut bills and carbon emissions and to boost jobs. There was no hidden agenda, although we'd obviously have been happy to take credit for the idea (which regular readers will know we nicked from Kirklees Greens). 

Salmond, on the other hand, would be going into UK Budget negotiations striving to demonstrate that the new Tory government doesn't care for Scotland, and that only the SNP can stand up to them. 

This would make the SNP almost impossible for Cameron to deal with, just as a minority Labour government found them in the 1970s. The Tory leader's long term future may well depend on ensuring he avoids both their rope and their red-hot shoes, just as the polls predict he will.

The King's Kingsnorth North.

| | Comments (0)
kingalex.jpgThe demise of the proposed Kingsnorth coal power station, announced last night by E:ON, was greeted with jubilation by Greens and other environmental activists. E:ON can now get back to their core business of protecting donkeys with solar powered fences. For some reason a story about that makes it to their media release archive, while Kingsnorth is neglected.

The next scandalous project of this sort in our firing line, and opposed by others like the RSPB, is the new coal plant planned at Hunterston. The SNP sneaked it into the National Planning Framework (2Mb pdf) right at the last minute, four months after the consultation closed, and their Ministers claim the plant will be "carbon capture ready", which is about as reassuring as "don't worry darling, it's condom ready".

The local campaign against the new Hunterston project is here, and STV did a good report last month about their legal challenge to the NPF. I hope they win, but either way efforts to block it will continue. 

NASA's James Hansen, the father of climate science, describes coal plants as "factories of death", and Hunterston is now front and centre in the campaign to make sure no more are ever built in this country. The SNP are yet again on the wrong side in the carbon wars, and both King Coal and King Alex will have to be stopped.

Your Links At Last


Other Politics



Friends and Stuff I Like

If I've forgotten to link to you, let me know. If I don't want to link to your blog I'll pretend I never got your email.

The party's site of which I am rather proud

Along with Jeff (formerly SNP Tactical Voting) and Malc (formerly In The Burgh), I now co-edit Better Nation, a group blog. Stuff will still appear here, but more will be there. Better Nation

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Parliament category from October 2009.

Parliament: September 2009 is the previous archive.

Parliament: November 2009 is the next archive.