Giving young people a voice in Scottish politics

Together with Children in Scotland, we proposed a new way for young people to have their say and have their views taken seriously. FMQT Next Generation establishes children and young people’s participation at the highest level in Scotland.

At the heart of youth work is young people’s participation. It runs through our Youth Work Outcomes, is a key ambition of the National Youth Work Strategy, is one of the six Year of Young People 2018 themes, and of course, is a right for all children and young people as outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

 “I wanted my voice to be heard. I want to achieve the ability to speak out against the things I want to change.” – Rosie, 13

Adults have many avenues through which to hold the government to account – voting, speaking to local politicians and protesting, to name a few. This is often not the case for children and young people, especially those too young to vote or those who find it difficult to have their voice heard. This is where youth work steps up.

“I am worried about all the big decisions that are being made without asking kids what they will want in the future.” – Zander, 10

In Scotland, we have strong traditions of children and young people’s participation in the statutory and voluntary youth work sectors. Youth Forums across the country give young people the opportunity to be heard on local issues that matter to them and the Scottish Youth Parliament, older even than the Scottish Parliament, has been providing a system for young people’s representation since 1999. Over the last year, SYP have grown their participation with an annual Cabinet meeting in partnership with the Children’s Parliament. MSYPs and MCPs discuss key issues with the First Minister and eleven Cabinet Secretaries. The last meeting saw discussion on issues such as children’s rights, Brexit and GIRFEC.

Inspired by the First Minister’s Question Time in the Scottish Parliament, we sought to put together a child-friendly version where children and young people could scrutinise at the highest level. We worked with a group of ten children and young people aged 9 to 16 to co-design a bi-annual FMQT Next Generation event. Check our Emma’s blog if you want to learn more about the Design Team.

In September, 100 children and young people will come together to ask the First Minister questions on issues that matter to them. The event will be filmed and published online to encourage wider engagement.

“I wanted to help children speak out and know they have the right to be heard and listened to.” – Evelyn, 9

We don’t want participation in FMQT Next Generation to start and stop with the in-person event either. We have designed a resource to support youth workers, teachers, carers, parents and other practitioners working with young people to discuss issues that matter to them and how they can have their voices heard. 

FMQT Next Generation is designed to be inclusive, child-friendly, and to provide a real challenge to the government. We want it to become a constant part of children and young people’s participation in Scotland, whichever party is in government, whoever is in the role of First Minister.

“By being part of this project along with advocating for care experienced young people, I want to help make a change in the lives of young people in Scotland. By doing this I hope to leave a legacy of a better Scotland for young people in the future.” – Katie, 15

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