No Regrets

A FORTNIGHT ago saw my last sitting both as a member and a director of the Scottish Youth Parliament, four years after joining the organisation. I’m proud to say I’ve Ieft with no regrets, and I’m leaving to give someone else an opportunity to make a real difference.

You can say what you want about SYP, but we did make a difference. Show me another youth-led organisation that had the foresight to vote for marriage equality to be their lead campaign? We did, calling it “Love Equally.” We lobbied MSPs. Then one of them raised a motion in parliament, it got quite a lot of support, but not much was said…then, along came John Mason, who lodged a motion opposing it, and that’s when the campaign hit the news and took off. Thanks for that, John…can’t help but think that’s one of your few positive contributions to Scottish politics, even if it was unintended.

Granted, not many youth-led political organisations get the budget that SYP does – but why is that? Well, for a start, (without disclosing anything confidential), SYP’s budget is nothing in the grand scheme of government spending. So, for an organisation on a tiny budget, with a handful of paid staff, to be able to run award winning campaigns like “Love Equally”  and become Scotland’s foremost voice on young people…that’s not too bad, is it?

Another thing we did – but you might not have heard of – is we campaigned for everyone, regardless of age, to be paid the national living wage. We didn’t see how it was fair that a 17 year old, doing the same job as a 45 year-old, could be paid less than them. Even if the 17 year old had worked there longer. Also, we didn’t see how it was particularly fair that both the 17 year old and the 45 year old could be paid an hourly wage that isn’t enough for them to live on. Our first target were Scotland’s local authorities…they now all pay the living wage.

I forgot to mention that all these points came from “Changing The Picture” – our manifesto compiled in 2011, which garnered over 42,000 responses from Scottish young people. Who said we were irrelevant?!

I’m not pretending everything we did came up roses – it wasn’t – but, despite the budget and the profile, SYP is making a real difference for young people across Scotland. Quietly, in the background, with perhaps less fuss than they deserve.

Whilst there’s a strong voice for young people in Scotland, our policy makers aren’t always so willing to listen. I met the transport minister twice in my time as an MSYP, the first time I met him, I brought along a selection of questions and concerns that had been raised to me, and he duly promised that his people would get back to me…the next I heard from him was when I met him again, one year later.

On the other hand, Fife Council have been fantastic (how often do you hear that?) – I, and a few other local MSYPs, arranged a meeting with the executive to try and sign them up to our “One Fair Wage” campaign. Instead, we had an hour-long meeting about engaging young people in Fife, and then they signed up. Not bad at all. Thanks, guys.

There. The Scottish Youth Parliament isn’t just there to make a difference, it is making a difference. It’s something I’ve loved being a part of – I know that Scotland is a better place for young people because of SYP, and there’s a fantastic team there to make sure it keeps on going.


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