We don’t just need to speak to be heard this election – we need to vote!
Yes, you CAN be bothered to go to the polls, and here’s why!
Tomorrow, there are elections for the Scottish Parliament happening. Politics may seem boring, stuffy, or even a waste of your time but these elections matter.
Simply put, when we vote, we are making a statement about the kind of country that we would like to live in, the issues we care about, and the values we hold as a society. And your vote is a way to have your voice heard by the people who make the big decisions that impact you’re life.
But to those of you who think your vote doesn’t matter, you couldn’t be more wrong. Because, quite frankly, it is a bit confusing to use this point as a way to justify not voting. Sure, you may live in a constituency with tens of thousands of other voters, but if everyone thought the same then what’s the point in democracy?
But most importantly, not everyone does think the same. Youth votes and the issues our generation cares about aren’t going to get fair consideration if we turn out in considerably fewer numbers than our parents or grandparents generations.
In the 2019 General Election, only 47% of 18-24 year olds voted. Meanwhile, 74% of those over the age of 65 turned up to vote on polling day in the same election. And in Scottish Parliamentary elections, turn out tends to be considerably lower across the board.
So, it isn’t hard to work out who politicians will give more time and energy to if younger people aren’t showing up to vote.
But why does this matter? Well, age has also now overtaken class to become the most important social division affecting how people vote. Our generation tends to take very different opinions, priorities, and life experiences than those much older than us.
As students, we probably have a lot more consideration for issues like tuition fees, the rules around renting, and the possibility of getting a job after graduation. Yet some of these issues wouldn’t be on the radars of those even slightly older than us.
Take the 2019 General Election as an example. If only people between the ages of 18-24 voted, the Conservatives wouldn’t have won a single seat. But if only those over the age of 65 voted, the Conservatives would’ve won a staggering 575 out of 650 seats.
Imagine the impact younger people could have had on the current state of British politics if they’d have voted in the same numbers as older people!
But despite youth turnout in most elections being so low, in the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum, 80% of 16-17 year olds registered to vote, which made up over 100,000 of the total electorate.
Young people have also been the backbone of the rise of lots of different political movements across Scotland and the rest of the UK. Take the ‘youthquake‘ that caused Jeremy Corbyn to pull off a political upset in 2017 by stopping the Conservatives from getting a majority. Or, the young women that campaigned for sanitary products to be made a legal right in Scotland last year – including students at Edinburgh Uni, through the social enterprise Sanitree, who were vital to the campaign.
And outside of party politics, what about the Black Lives Matter protests across the UK last summer that started a conversation about racial injustice and the UK’s colonial past.
So, the passion is there! If we can translate all the progress made by these social movements into tangible political progress, we’ll be onto something huge.
At the end of the day, what happens for our youth is not really something our parents and grandparents should be doing for us – no one understands the reality and needs of our generation better than those who live it.
Voting gives us a say on what matters to us, whether that be from transport to education, or climate change. It’s the most direct method we have to improve our university experience during a pandemic, or to make sure we are getting paid enough in summer jobs.
Issues that matter most to us will continue to be swept under the rug if there’s no demand for them to be addressed, so policies will continue to ignore the demands of young people if we don’t turn up on polling day and have our voices heard.
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