Scotland’s largest teaching union has given its backing to extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds ahead of the referendum on independence.
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) lodged a submission with the Scottish Government’s referendum consultation calling for the change.
The EIS, which represents 80% of Scotland’s teachers and lecturers, also wants the voting age lowered to 16 for all future elections.
The union’s general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "The EIS believes that sixteen and seventeen year olds should have the vote in the referendum on Scotland’s future, which is their future. Extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds will help to foster active citizenship by giving young people a greater say in the decisions that will affect them now and in the future.
“Encouraging pupils to be responsible citizens and effective contributors are two of the key principles of Curriculum for Excellence, and there are few better ways of encouraging these capacities than by extending the right to vote and enabling young people to play a full part in the democratic process.”
He added: "At the age of 16, young people can secure employment, pay taxes and get married. They can join the armed forces. It is wholly appropriate that they should also have the right to vote on the decisions that affect them, and to have a fair say in who is elected to represent them at local or national level.”
While the EIS supports the extension of the franchise, it has no corporate policy on the question of independence and will not take a public stance one way or another. Mr Flanagan explained: "The EIS does not have a policy position regarding the referendum itself, other than to support the principle of the Scottish people being able to vote for the option they favour. It remains to be seen what platforms will emerge in the course of the debate. The EIS was a long-standing supporter of devolution and for the establishment of a Scottish Parliament, but almost certainly, EIS members across Scotland will hold personal views which encompass the entire range of options which will be debated in the months to come.
“What is important is that we have that debate, and that the referendum itself delivers a clear and decisive answer for Scotland’s future.”
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