Teenage MSPs could bring 'vibrancy' to Holyrood, says SNP minister

The MSP said extending candidacy rights to 16 and 17-year-olds would be a 'culture shock for us and them'.

Teenage MSPs could bring ‘vibrancy’ to Holyrood, says SNP minister iStock

Teenage MSPs would bring a “vibrancy” and “culture shock for us and them”, an SNP minister has said.

George Adam, the MSP for Paisley, spoke about the impact MSPs aged 16 and 17 would have on Holyrood.

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on a series of proposed electoral reforms, including extending candidacy rights to groups of people who are currently not eligible.

Leading a debate at Holyrood, the Parliamentary Business Minister said the two main groups who could receive these new rights would be 16- and 17-year-olds as well as foreign nationals who have limited leave to remain.

He said the extension of voting rights to this age group ahead of the 2016 Holyrood election is “considered by most to have been a success”.

Adam acknowledged there would be “passionate” arguments against extending this right, but said candidates in the age group could “possibly change the vibrancy of this place”.

He continued: “One thing we would have to take into account, should someone ever be elected as a 16- or 17-year-old, is that we’d actually have to have the mechanism in here to support the individual.

“Because it would be a culture shock for us, and a culture shock for them as well, should that become the case.”

Extending the candidacy rights would be a “powerful expression of the confidence and respect that this Parliament has towards young people”, he said.

He said the Scottish Government intended to introduce legislation before the next Scottish Parliament election.

Other measures in the consultation include discussion of “tactile voting devices” for visually impaired people.

Speaking for the Conservatives, MSP Donald Cameron said there are several proposals in the consultation that his party would support.

These include excluding candidates who have shown abusive behaviour.

However, he said the Conservatives have “serious anxieties” about extending candidacy rights in the ways proposed.

Cameron said: “On extending candidacy rights to 16- and 17-year-olds, the consultation document itself raises issues around the impact that long working hours (and) travelling to Edinburgh for parliamentary sittings, could have, as well as the potential impact on education.”

Candidates in elections often experience harassment, abuse and intimidation, he said, including the “considerable dangers” of online abuse.

He continued: “I would sincerely ask the Scottish Government to think very carefully about the specific proposals to extend candidacy to 16- and 17-year-olds and foreign nationals with limited rights to remain.

“As well as think carefully about extending voting rights to individuals detained on mental health grounds related to criminal justice.”

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