As the nation looks recover from the worldwide pandemic, never has it been more important for our young people to take a stand and ensure their voices are heard on the political stage.
The Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) Election will take place during November 2021 and young people in the county are being encouraged to stand as a candidate for the Orkney constituency.
The SYP is the democratically elected voice of Scotland’s young people. Held every two years, SYP elections will take place between the 9-21 November and this is your chance to stand. Expressions of interest need to be made by 30 June 2021 by visiting the Scottish Youth Parliament website.
People aged 14-25 can put themselves forward for election in two ways: as one of two MSYPs in your local constituency – with which the Orkney Community Learning and Development (CLD) Team will assist - or through a number of voluntary organisations that have representative MSYPs, and the voluntary organisation itself will advise.
Following the relevant expressions of interest, CLD’s Cheryl Rafferty will be in touch to discuss what happens next in terms of candidacy training and the campaign process.
The votes of young people give MSYPs their democratic mandate to represent the views of Scotland’s young people. In the last elections, in 2019, over 70,000 votes were cast.
MSYPs have a crucial role to play in Scottish public life, from representing young people across the country to running impactful campaigns.
Why should you stand?
Becoming an MSYP is a life-changing experience and one full of rewards, according to some of Orkney’s past and present MSYPs.
Maya Tams-Gray, from Rendall and Hope Laing from Finstown have both enjoyed some incredible experiences since their election in 2019. The role comes hand in hand with membership of the Orkney Youth Forum.
“It’s all about stepping out of your comfort zone to be able to achieve great things,” Hope, 17, MSYP for Orkney, said.
Hope, who is heading off to University, feels she has already gained much through her experiences, in particular being an advocate for her peers.
“I enjoy standing up for those whose voices are not usually heard equally and fairly for all. Being able to provide that bridge between people and decision makers is so valuable and one of the favourite parts of my role.”
Raising your head above the parapet and moving outwith your comfort zone is not an easy choice to make, but it has allowed Orkney’s Maya Tams-Gray MSYP to grow in confidence and enjoy some exciting life experiences that may not have happened otherwise.
Maya is now at University. “I’ve gained so much from being part of both, my confidence has increased so much and I have lots of connections in all sorts of sectors now. My passion for young people’s rights and to have their voices heard has only increased, and I have had so many amazing opportunities through my roles.”
It was Maya’s interest in politics, a level of frustration and a yearning to improve areas affecting young people that saw her put herself forward.
“It’s hard work but rewarding and in these particularly challenging times we have had to adapt.
It’s been difficult having to have the past two SYP sittings online, and campaigning has been tricky. Every five years SYP puts out a big manifesto consultation. This directly influences the work that we do and the direction that we take, and there has been lots of extra struggles because we can’t do any in-person consultation.
“Through SYP, I have personally had a Motion passed about Careers Advice Services, recognising their importance and also to ensure that they cater to all accessibility requirements. I was also part of a group called Screen Savers in SYP, we developed a resource (Mindyertime.scot) looking at healthy use of social media and screen time for young people, which I was very proud of!”
Former MSYP for Orkney, Jack Norquoy, said: “Young people getting involved and having a say on how our communities are run will ensure decisions are made better in the short and long run. No issue is too small or too large to raise and campaign on but depends on us all being prepared to use our voice.”
Jack feels he has gained in confidence from his experiences and despite the challenges of 2020, he says there is much to be hopeful for looking ahead.
“The experiences were very rewarding and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity not only to represent Orkney and share about growing up in the islands, but to meet young people from across the world and learn about their backgrounds too. Certainly, it was the people you met than the places you travelled to that was most enriching. Many friendships I made while an MSYP are still going strong today.
“Young people and their prosperity have become a bit of a forgotten victim in this crisis and ensuring investment in the next generation will be vital for the strength of our recovery.”
Calum McArthur was just 15 when he became involved in the Orkney Youth Forum Steering Group which was successful in seeing the Forum established in the county. Then aged 17, Calum was elected, alongside Jack Norquoy, to represent Orkney as Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament in 2017.
Calum, from Burray, believes that the confidence gained by being part of the Forum and as an MSYP gave him the solid foundations required to help secure a successful path in life.
Calum wanted to bring a strong voice to both; a voice representative of the young folk in Orkney and the issues of the time, many of which remain issues today.
“Anyone who wants to help their community and be a part of something bigger than themselves that creates real positive change should at least be a member of the OYF, and I would encourage anyone who feels this way to also consider standing for MSYP. It is challenging, but if you put in the work you will get a truly rewarding experience.”
CLD’s Cheryl Rafferty said: "We have had two excellent MSYPs representing Orkney this past term, and they both have spoken of some very positive experiences along the way.
“We would encourage anyone who is interested in representing young people in Orkney at a national level to put their name forward. I assist anyone who puts themselves forward as one of two MSYPs in our local constituency, for anyone looking to put themselves forward as a representative MSYP, that would need to be done via the relevant voluntary organisation.
“More and more, Government Ministers, politicians from around the globe, and organsations are listening to what young people have to say. SYP was influential in helping secure votes for 16-year-olds in Scotland and has also been a key voice in the campaign for equal marriage and improving public transport services for young folk.
“It is vital, especially in these current times, that our young people are not forgotten. It is going to be more challenging than ever for some to carve out a successful path ahead – this is, perhaps, one route that some have not considered. But there is much to be gained, particularly in terms of confidence and life skills.
“The Community Learning and Development team at the Council are here to offer support and guidance throughout the nomination process and campaign. This could be the start of your journey to changing what the future holds for all Scotland’s young people.”
Cheryl added that there are also opportunities for young people in Orkney in regard to becoming a member of the Orkney Youth Forum.
“If a young person feels they aren’t quite ready to stand as an MSYP but would like to become involved in the Youth Forum which is the voice of young people in Orkney, they can get in touch with myself for more information via firstname.lastname@example.org”