From: Dominic Jones, Member of Youth Parliament for Barnsley.
THE issue of devolution of powers from Whitehall has caused divides throughout the county as political, business and education leaders here campaign for financial and legislative powers.
We only have to look at the London Assembly and the influence that metro-mayors such as Andy Burnham, Andy Street and Steve Rotherham have, to see that devolution is needed here in Yorkshire now more than ever.
However, this region needs to lead by example and allow 16 and 17-year-olds to have their say in any election for an elected mayor or assembly.
Last November, the UK Youth Parliament voted for the ‘Votes at 16’ issue as its national campaign for the third year since its creation after just under 10,000 young people in the Yorkshire and Humber region named the issue as their most important.
Since then, there have been debates in Parliament and support from a series of high-profile attendees at the Yorkshire Day celebration in August which highlighted the issue’s increasing relevance and importance.
The case for reducing the voting age to 16 is further enhanced by the increased turnout in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum in which 75 per cent of 16 and 17-year-olds took part.
The lack of movement in England on this issue is another wedge being driven between the nations of the United Kingdom, and we should start the ball rolling for national legislative change within England, and the UK as a whole, to ensure young people can shape this country and help tackle the many issues that society faces.
While advocates of a One Yorkshire deal make the case that we have a population and economy similar to that of Scotland, surely, we can be similar to them and allow votes at 16 in future elections and referendums that affect the course of decision-making within our county?
As we enter a post-Brexit period, our region will face a series of challenges and difficulties, such as attracting investment, and young people are integral to ensuring that we compete successfully and prosper as a region.
If decision-makers are serious about securing a devolution deal that benefits the region, not just now but for many generations to come, they must advocate the case for legislative powers over the voting age in elections for a directly-elected regional mayor or assembly – it is about the future after all.