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Extending the referendum franchise

12/03/2013

A Bill that will give every 16 and 17 year old the right to add their voice to the most important decision made in Scotland in 300 years has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament.

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The Scottish Referendum (Franchise) Bill will ensure that everyone aged 16 and above on the day of the referendum in 2014 will be able to participate in the historic vote, and help decide what type of country they want Scotland to be.  

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the extension of the franchise would give those with the biggest stake in Scotland’s future the opportunity to vote for an independent country where the most important decisions on economic prosperity and social justice are taken by those that live and work in Scotland.   

The Bill sets out who will be able to vote in the referendum and will place young voters on an equal footing with other electors, helping to engage them in the democratic process. It will give electoral registration officers the power to register those who will be 16 or over on the day of the vote and will provide safeguards to ensure that data is treated sensitively and responsibly.

On a visit to an Edinburgh High School to mark the introduction of the Bill, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“No-one has a bigger stake in the future of our country than today’s young people and it is only right that they are able to have a say in the most important vote to be held in Scotland for three centuries.

“In next year’s referendum, Scotland’s 16 and 17 year olds will be given the opportunity to shape their country’s path by choosing what type of country they want Scotland to be.

“It is a straight choice. An independent country where we make the big decisions affecting our future here in Scotland or leave our destiny to be determined remotely. It is a choice about the type of country we want Scotland to be and I am confident that young people in Scotland will want to take responsibility for Scotland’s future.

“At 16, young people can marry, have children and pay taxes and it is therefore correct that they are given the right to vote on the future of the country in which they live. In modern Scotland, giving the vote to 16 and 17 year olds is the right thing to do. 

“We want to make sure that our young people have the opportunity to engage in Scotland’s democratic process.  We want to give them the right to voice their views, freely and confidently, on the matters that affect them.  We believe 16 and 17 year olds should be able to vote in all elections – but the Scottish Parliament does not currently have the power to make that change. 

“However, following the Edinburgh Agreement, the Scottish Parliament does have the power to decide whether to extend the franchise for the historic 2014 vote, and I am very pleased to be introducing this Bill today.”   

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