Choose your own Simon Cowell

John McNally
John McNally

LAZY, apathetic and couldn’t care less. When it comes to politics these are accusations often levelled at young people.

Not only do I disagree with this bleak observation but I believe there is a lot to be optimistic about.

I’m not speaking naively either, as having had two teenagers myself, I’m aware of the shoulder shrugging, eye rolling, attitudes they can display. This might be frustrating, but if you push a little harder and persevere with some chit chat over the breakfast table, or on a car journey, you realise that boy or girl feels strongly about the wider world. Whether it’s women’s rights, immigration, climate change or future employment there will be a topic they have opinions on. And strong ones too.

The trouble is that they don’t see the point in expressing themselves. Your opinion doesn’t count, so why bother?

It’s up to us as parents to get them talking - and myself and my colleagues as politicians must prove to them they will be heard.

While I was at Westminster last week I caught up with some Falkirk High School pupils who were visiting Westminster Education Centre. It was a pleasure to spend time with such an interested and curious bunch. It reminded me of how important democracy is to us all and what a breath of fresh air it was to have these teenagers, with all of their energy and youth, present in a place where historically the big decisions are made.

We need to have open doors to our political institutions and shake off the impression that the public doesn’t belong there. Kids need to see it all and walk through the same halls their MPs do.

When the Scottish Referendum was held in September 2014, people aged 16 and over were allowed to vote on their future. Scotland broke ground in giving our teenagers motivation to help shape their country’s future.

I think that decision was correct and from what I hear from various organizations across Falkirk, and from other sources, the political engagement at grassroots level within communities continues. More young people than ever before are joining political parties and engaging in debate through pupil councils and beyond. Basically, once you get a taste for politics you tend to stick with it.

Look also at how Scotland leads the way in its intake of leaders.

Women are heading the main political parties. Nicola Sturgeon not only leads the SNP, she is First Minister of Scotland and has silenced critics by being the best liked politician in Europe. Green issues, close to the hearts of many younger folk, are hotly debated in this country as we strive to find clean energy. It couldn’t be a more interesting time to grasp the imagination of someone you know. No one is too young - or too old for that matter.

On May 5, our nation votes to elect the MSPs they wish to represent them at Holyrood. I’m delighted that this process will include 16 year olds.

During the lead up to voting day a series of televised debates are scheduled, some which will include party leaders. Get the family round the TV. It might not be X Factor but it’ll certainly get everybody talking. You can choose your own Simon Cowell.