UK Parliament refuses to consider calls to lower voting age

Date: 29th November 2016
Category: Respect for the views of the child

The UK Parliament has refused to consider calls to lower the voting age to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in general elections.

Constitution Minister, Chris Skidmore rejected a call from opposition MP, Chris Elmore, for the government to consider a recently published report that recommended extending the vote to children to enable them to fully engage in politics.

In Scotland, 16 and 17-year-olds are able to vote for members of the Scottish Parliament and Wales is currently considering a bill that may also allow children to vote in Welsh Assembly elections from the age of 16, but the UK Parliament has so far refused to consider national legislation.

Together's 2016 State of Children's Rights in Scotland report

The 2014 Scottish independence referendum was the first time that 16 and 17 year olds were able to vote in the UK. In 2015 the voting franchise was extended to 16 and 17-year-olds in Scottish elections, which was an essential step to ensuring young people's voices play a part in public life.

However, 16 and 17 year olds in Scotland cannot participate in Westminster or European elections. The UK Government has actively resisted moves to lower the voting age. Whilst the House of Lords voted to lower the age of voting in the EU referendum to 16 years old, this was blocked by the House of Commons. This is despite the fact that the EU referendum was widely recognised as one of the most important decisions to be made by the UK in recent times and will have far-reaching implications for children and young people. Over a million children and young people across Scotland will have to live with the consequences of the referendum, having had no influence on its outcome.

It is clear that the overall vote for the UK to leave the EU went against the views of the majority of children and young people. Throughout the UK, it has been estimated that 73% of voters aged 18-24 voted to remain in the EU. In Scotland, only 11% of the 72,744 responses from young people aged 12-25 to the Scottish Youth Parliament's recent Lead the Way Manifesto wanted to leave the EU.

Together has recommended that Scottish Government should further harness and encourage the political engagement of children. This should include encouraging democratic engagement in schools and other community learning settings, and ensuring the involvement of more vulnerable and isolated groups of children.