Commenting on the agreement today between First Minister Alex Salmond and Prime Minister David Cameron on how the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence will be conducted, SNP MEP Alyn Smith said:
"It’s fantastic news that the details of how the referendum will take place have now been sorted out, but the fact that 16 and 17 year olds are likely to be given the vote is something I’m particularly pleased about.
"The contribution our young people can make to politics is immense, and I’m delighted that we are now following in the footsteps of countries like Austria and Germany as well as Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man in enabling them to do so.
"Quite simply, it’s the right thing to do. As Honorary President of both Young Scots for Independence and the Federation of Student Nationalists as well as a trustee of LGBT Youth Scotland, I work with young people all the time. I know from personal experience that they’re responsible and wise - they’re thoughtful, mature and take politics seriously.
"If you’re a 16 or 17 year old, then Scotland is your country and it’s future is in your hands. So it’s only right that you are now going to get a say in how it is run."
Alyn pointed out that giving younger people the vote had been SNP policy for a very long time. “Winnie Ewing first raised it during her maiden speech to the House of Commons when she was elected as an MP way back in 1967.”
And he added that, once implemented, the change had to be sustained beyond the 2014 referendum. “Having given 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote, we can’t take it away again. So I’m certain our young people will also have their say at next Scottish Parliament elections in 2016 and forever after that for Holyrood polls.
"Unfortunately, the European Parliament hasn’t opened its ballot boxes to voters who are 16 and over yet - but that, too, will surely only be a matter of time.
"Last month, as a Scottish MEP, I was proud to sign a written declaration calling on EU member states to follow our Scottish Government and lower the polling age to 16, and I’m hoping this will now be pushed through.
"For now, though, I’m celebrating this terrific breakthrough. I’m sure we’ll win a yes vote in the referendum, with 16 and 17 year olds playing a vital part in that and in building the new Scotland which will follow."