Pupils attending Moray schools have elected their representatives in the Scottish Youth Parliament.
Laura Smith (18) from Findochty and Ellie Pearce (16) from Darnaway will be representing young people in the 12 to 25 age group at meeting throughout Scotland for the next two years.
Laura and Ellie began preparing their campaign manifestos in November last year before campaigning at all of Moray’s secondary schools in February. That was followed in the first two weeks of March by every High School hosting an election, co-ordinated by the Moray Youth Council , during their break and lunch times.
The election were perfectly timed in the run up to the UK General Election, providing an ideal platform for schools to have a taste of voting for real.
Buckie High School and Forres Academy posted the lion’s share of the votes as Laura and Ellie’s fellow pupils rallied to show their support at the polling stations.
The last voting poll at Milne’s High School on March 13 was also the venue for the final vote count conducted by the Moray Youth Council membership using the Single Transferable Vote process.
In the weeks running up to the elections the Youth Council had undertaken a number of training sessions getting to grips with the STV count and how to manage it properly as the possibility of making a counting error is very high if everyone isn’t entirely focused.
Emmie Main, former Chair of the Moray Youth Council, said: “The vote count was a huge success. Members of the Moray Youth Council worked really hard to count the ballots and luckily, despite STV being a complicated system to get your head around, our numbers added up!
“The youth council put a lot of effort into organising the votes in each schools, which is reflected in the fantastic turnouts in some areas. The election wouldn’t have been possible without our members holding the ballots and giving up their Friday evening to count the votes.
“The SYP elections was a fantastic experience for us to engage politically with the young people in Moray – and for myself, along with the rest of the youth council, we are thrilled to see the results and the overall turnout.
“We’re excited to work with our new MSYPs over their term to make sure the voice of Moray’s young people is heard loudly and clearly and to make sure that we can make a difference and make Moray a fantastic place for young people to grow up in.”
It became clear during the second round of counting that Laura and Ellie had pipped their competition to the post, with candidates John Thain from Buckie and Jack Slinger eliminated.
Laura took first place with 55.3% of the vote and Ellie achieved 37.1%, allowing them to take a seat each for Moray.
A further 7.6% of ballot papers were either spoilt or eliminated after the first and second round of counting. Across Moray a massive 905 secondary school students participated in the election process.
New incoming chair for the Youth Council, Andrew Hanton, said: “The Scottish Youth Parliament elections proved to show that many of Moray’s Young People have a deep interest not only in having themselves represented in politics, but in politics itself.
“The interest and passion that many of them have demonstrated is incredibly promising, and gives me hope that this may continue to ultimately allow better representation of Young People at parliamentary level through improved involvement and engagement. Giving the Young People of Moray a voice in politics is crucial, since through youth consultations and the work that the Moray Youth Council has done, we know that they have much to say.”
New MSYPs look to the future
Following her election Laura said: “I’m thrilled to have been elected as one of the MSYP’s for Moray and cannot wait for the first sitting.
“I feel passionate about the points I made in my manifesto and plan to work hard to achieve them and to make Moray a better place for young people for young people. My manifesto pledges were to improve mobile 3G data in the area, better rural public transport in Moray, better funding for young people’s groups, among many other policies.
“I plan to work with the Moray Youth Council to generate Members Motions, that the Scottish Youth Parliament will vote on in hope that the membership will agree with my policies and we can start to lobby the government to encourage change.”
Ellie added: “I was really pleased to be elected as an MSYP. I am very excited for the upcoming sitting and for having the chance to put across views on behalf of Moray.
“It will be a chance to meet other MSYP’s as well as to join a focus group that will be a unit of support in my term and help when trying to get government backing. I hope to raise the issues on my manifesto including raising the minimum wage for those under 21, reintroducing study leave for prelims and updating home economics so each child leaves school able to cook a range of simple healthy meals.
“As a board member of the youth council, I hope to work closely with the group to create member motions and hopefully get change.”
Both Laura and Ellie will work closely with the membership of the Moray Youth Council in leading consultations and events to gauge the views of young people in Moray and taking them to the Scottish Youth Parliament who will then go on to lobby government, public bodies and businesses in affecting positive change for young people across Scotland.
The Moray Council’s youth work staff will also provide support through their Engagement Team and if anyone would like to join the Moray Youth Council or make contact with the Scottish Youth Parliament reps they can do so by e-mailing Daniel Edwards, Senior Youth Worker at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling Keith Community Centre on 01542 882222.