Voting Age

Thank you for contacting me about the voting age.

I welcome the ongoing discussions and debates on this issue. There was a rising level of interest in the issue following the Scottish Independence Referendum, although most polls do show that a majority of adults oppose the change. In the 16-18 cohort, there is a modest majority of 16 year olds in favour, 17 year olds are evenly balanced, and 18 year olds are against.

In the UK, there is no single moment when someone moves from childhood to adulthood; instead responsibilities and permitted activities build up over time. For example, a person must be 17 before they can leave home without parents' consent or hold a license to drive and 18 before they can sit on a jury, fight for their country or buy cigarettes and alcohol. I think this illustrates that, so far, we have viewed attainting adulthood as a process rather than a single event.

I also believe it is notable that most democracies consider 18 the right age to enfranchise young people. So far in the EU, only Austria had lowered the voting age to 16 for national elections.

Of course, I am all for young people taking part in politics and in my own constituency I encourage them to do so whatever their party-political affiliation but there is masses one can do to influence the political debate before attaining the franchise.

Getting young people politically engaged is not only a matter of the voting age. Interestingly, a 2009 report by the Youth Citizenship Commission stated that the voting age is not the principal factor in encouraging young people's interest and involvement in politics and citizenship.

I hope that this helps you to understand my position.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.