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Give Us the Vote, and Now

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We are constantly hearing news about how politicians are trying to get young people politically active, but the answer is simple - Give us the vote. With Alex Salmond's decision to allow sixteen year olds the vote on the referendum regarding Scottish independence, his attempt to restore political participation for young people deserves credit. Unfortunately, like many attempts to encourage teenagers to involve themselves in political affairs, his plan is flawed.

Teenagers of sixteen and over will be allowed to vote on whether Scotland should be devolved, however they won't even be allowed to vote at the next general election. It hardly seems fair that young Scots will be able to have a say on only one issue, and subsequently be ignored as before, like the rest of the young people across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

At the age of sixteen, I can now legally join the army, get a full-time job, leave home without my parents' consent and get married, yet people my age still find themselves denied the right to vote, one of the most important rights you can have in a democratic country. How can it be that anyone of my age can get a job and pay taxes towards a government whom they are not even able to vote for?

Not only is the vote a right for teenagers our age, but it is also a necessity if our generation is to become more involved with political activity and community awareness. Local issues and decision-making would play a far larger role for many teenagers once they had the right to vote, for the simple reason that the right to vote encourages people to become more involved in politics, as they want to be aware of who they are being represented by. Not only would political stability improve on a local level, but arguably even more so at national level, for the reason that the decision to give us the vote would see a sharp increase in voter turnout at the next general election. Undoubtedly many issues over the last few years would be strongly reflected in the young people's vote, such as the summer riots last year and the government spending cuts. The vote would give young people a far greater influence over political decisions taken by government ministers, such as the decision to scrap the educational maintenance allowance for poorer young people, which undeniably would have not been passed through parliament so willingly if there were thousands of young people ( with the power to vote) opposing such reforms.

The hardest point to get my head around, however, is the fact that by sixteen years of age the majority of us are using public services on a regular bases, and as much (if not more) than the adults who vote in the government controlling these public services. The idea that we aren't able to elect in the people who play such an essential role in our everyday life doesn't exactly appear democratic. If the government wants to get us involved in politics, at least start off by letting us have the right to vote in a politician who we think will benefit our lives, even if that be on a small local issue.

Although I accept the argument presented by many people that some teenagers aren't informed enough to make a proper decision on who to vote for, next time you visit a school just ask sixteen year olds what sort of policies they would vote for, and you will find the majority of those policies are the same ones being discussed in Westminster. The point I am trying to make is that young people my age share many beliefs of those eligible to vote, and our intentions for achieving a fair and healthy society are the same as those of adults.