Rory Hamilton – 14 July 2022
This week I am delighted, to reflect on the 77th sitting of the Scottish Youth Parliament last weekend at Greenfaulds High School.
As a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, I was invited to attend the first in-person sitting since before the pandemic. The sitting is an opportunity for MSYPs to get to know each other, network, and hold discussions about policy and campaigns they wish to work on. It is also an opportunity to debate and discuss the motions put forward by members – these can be opinion-based which express the joint view of the Scottish Youth Parliament or action motions which usually call on the Scottish Government to take steps to address a particular issue that is affecting young people.
Admittedly, the motions put forward this year were largely uncontroversial and all passed and most by a substantial margin – which was great to see. However, the debates and discussion held between members was inspiring and reassuring. The enthusiasm and grasp of such a wide range of policy issues was matched by the genuinely great solutions many spoke about with passion and from personal experience. A list of motions below shows the diverse subjects debated by members.
- LGBT+ Conversion Therapy Ban
- Mandatory training in schools around substance misuse
- More support for transitional services for children and young people
- Fixed ‘study spaces’ in all educational institutions
- Care Experienced Mental Health Services
- Access to toilets at school
- Mandatory Holocaust education in schools
- Education maintenance allowance (EMA) for Asylum Seekers
- Improvements to the Rented Housing Sector
Most pertinent to Common Weal’s work relates to the National Care Service (3 & 5) and to Rent Controls (9).
3. ‘The Scottish Youth Parliament acknowledges the challenges around support and communication during the transition between Children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) to adult mental health services, recognises the work done to improve this through the Transition Care Plans initiative, and calls for a further review of the support provided to young people undergoing this transition to ensure their wellbeing.’
5. ‘The Scottish Youth Parliament believes that, in line with the Promise, there should be dedicated mental health services for Care Experienced people where every young person in care is proactively offered mental health support that is tailored to individuals and does not have automatic end dates, allowing ongoing support into adulthood as required.’
Much to my surprise while I listened to proposals 3 and 5 I could not find any SYP policy which related directly to a National Care Service, and yet they would fit perfectly in this context. It is in this vein that I am hoping to work with fellow MSYPs to call on the Scottish Government to introduce a not-for-profit, all ages NCS, free at the point of use. I hope to work with our Who Cares? Scotland MSYPs and others to bring a motion of this kind to the parliament when it meets again in October at the actual Parliament in Holyrood. The passion and strength from which those MSYPs spoke was to be commended and I was really moved by the personal experiences shared as well as the evidence-based reasoning that was put forward. Skilful use of rhetoric and being well-versed across the policy brief showed Scotland’s politicians in the making (and dare I say much more made than many in Holyrood and Westminster themselves) to be ready to take up the mantle of public service. If Scotland’s young people can add their voice to the growing ranks of trade unions and politicians calling for KPMG’s vision of a National Care Service to be seriously rethought, I am optimistic of the energy they can bring to the conversation on a National Care Service.
9. ‘The Scottish Youth Parliament calls on the Scottish Government to act on their commitment to reform the private rented sector and introduce a system of rent controls as soon as possible; believes that the system of rent controls should be point-based and dependent on a properties quality rather than market-value; and that improved access to justice should also be included in reforms to better protect and improve the rights of tenants in Scotland.’
Regarding ‘Improvements to the Rented Housing Sector’, I was initially invited to speak in opposition as motions often have a lot of support for them without a speaker against, and the inclusion of an opposition argument is good for healthy debate and learning amongst MSYPs. However, a number of factors conspired against me to make this impossible for me to do, not least the old enemy – time. But I was still glad to stand up in the debate and speak unscripted with my support for the motion, which had received support from Living Rent team members. The timing, too, was important, given in recent days the SNP and Greens had voted down a Labour proposal for an emergency rent freeze.
Across the two days, we also got to meet in our committees (I’m on the Transport, Environment & Rural Affairs committee) and prepare for the first of four campaigns, this quarter on the Right to Food. We were pleased to hear from Nourish Scotland and workshop key suggestions around the recent Good Food Nation bill and how SYP can put pressure on the Scottish Government to incorporate the Right to Food in the first place and at a faster rate – safe to say the urgency of the cost-of-living crisis is not lost on these young folks. Likewise, we were able to meet with various government bodies in consultation workshops; I was part of Transport Scotland’s “Working together to reduce car use for a healthier, fairer, greener Scotland” workshop where we looked at consultation results from young people on what they’d like to see for the future of Scotland’s transport. I felt the workshop was a good chance to share those policy ideas which I feel could make a massive difference, as such the Common Home Plan did not sit idly in my bag during the workshop.
All said, the SYP sitting was a great experience, and the commitment, determination and energy around the event reassured my faith in the future of Scottish politics. It reminded me that we should not discount our young people – ever! By leaving them out of the conversation, whether designing services or consulting on policy, we deny them agency, and when we deny our young people agency not only does this contravene the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, but we also miss out on the fantastic ideas, inspiring life experiences and the creativity that young people bring to decision making. We need to trust our young people because they are often thinking far ahead of policymakers now. Moreover, they truly embody the Nolan principles of public life: they are objective in assessing the facts, accountable to their constituents and their peers, selfless, open, honest, and always act with integrity. We need to respect our young people because they show leadership in ways our own leaders seem to have forgotten.