Claim of 'backdoor' lowering of voting age to 16


Lord Forsyth and Lord Wallace, the Advocate General for Scotland, on lowering the voting age

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A row has broken out over claims that allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote on Scottish independence will lead to a lowering of the UK-wide voting age.

The government appears to have conceded that younger voters will have a say in whether Scotland remains in the UK.

One Labour MP said she hoped the "cultural shift" would lead to a lower age limit for UK general elections.

But Lord Forsyth, a Conservative, described the move as a "backdoor way" of forcing the hands of MPs.

Alex Salmond the Scottish First Minister will meet David Cameron next week to finalise a deal on how the 2014 referendum will be run.

Voters in Scotland are expected to be given a straight, in-or-out choice of whether or not to stay in the UK.

Mr Salmond has been pushing for 16 and 17-year olds to be able to vote in the poll.

Labour MP Natascha Engel told Radio 4's Today Programme: "The cultural shift that will come with allowing them to participate in the Scottish referendum will shift the mood in Westminster to make sure that 16 and 17-year-olds will be given the vote after that."


On Wednesday, government minister Lord Wallace said the coalition had no plans to extend the UK election franchise to younger people.

"The franchise for referendums is set out in the legislation that enables each referendum to take place," he said.

But Tory Lord Forsyth said if the law was to change it should be "properly debated by the House of Commons".

He accused Alex Salmond of "attempting to bully the prime minister" into lowering the age in return for having just a single question on any referendum ballot paper.

Constitutional expert Professor Vernon Bogdanor - a supporter of lowering the voting age from 18 - said "private negotiations" between David Cameron and Mr Salmond were "not the way" to bring about a change in the rules.

But he said such a change would make sense: "Sixteen-year-olds are still at school so they're having civics lessons and citizenship lessons so it's likely they'll pick up the habit of voting.

"By the age of 18 some people have left school so they've forgotten about their civics lessons and, as we know, the young on the whole don't vote very much."

According to pollsters Ipsos Mori, fewer than half of the 18-24 year olds registered to vote in the 2010 general election actually did vote. There was an almost even split in their support between the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

And chief executive Ben Page suggested on BBC Radio 4's Today that allowing young people to vote might not benefit the SNP as the party hope.

"I'm not sure, if this is Alex Salmond's negotiation tactic, that it's going to pay off. In our most recent polling what we say is it's actually the 25 to 34-year-olds - who were teenagers when the movie Braveheart came out in the mid 1990s - who are actually most enthusiastic about independence in Scotland."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    Peakeen - I certainly don't want to turn the clock back 300 or 400 years. You mentioned 400 years and I simply corrected YOUR error. As I said in my post the SNP are foward looking social democrats not backward looking Brit Nats (not pointing any finger) who yearn for the glory days of the Empire and have no positive case to put to the electorate. They only spread fear and encourage self loathing

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    It is pretty obvious that if it is ok for 16 year olds in Scotland to vote on independence then they should also be allowed to vote in all other elections and ballots. Which means they will then have a say on who the prime minister of the UK is (at least up until the point Scotland gets any future independence). Where does that leave rest of the UK?

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    As with all other age groups, there will be mature, intelligent 16-18 year olds and there will be those who are not. Perhaps there should be an intelligence criteria for voting - with those not reaching an acceptable level being barred for ever from the democratic process.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    I find it astonishing that the Government are allowing 16 & 17 year olds to vote in the Scottish Referendum. Having said that, it is surely impossible not to grant the vote to all 16 & 17 year olds once such a precedent has been created.
    Another ill thought through decision by those we allow to govern us? Surely not!

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    @263 heh, that would be the day. I suspect the only republic we'll see in Europe will be the Republic of Europe, and that itself will only be a stopgap for the Hegemony of Brussels when nationality is bred out of living memory.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    Eddie @ 248

    Economic suicide - the Scottish economy is not diverse enough and too reliant on the public sector. The UK provides neccessary leverage.

    Political suicide - an integral part of a Tier 1 global player reduced to the status of a Baltic state.

    Cultural suicide - the exodus of Scots whose lives will be destroyed by separation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    It seems to me ridiculous that you can be married at 16 in Scotland and have kids but not be able to vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    I hope they get to vote, I hope Scotland breaks away from the madness that is the Westminster parliamentary system, and institutes a robust republic and get some economic sanity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    Just a cheap little ploy by that grinning hyena Salmond. He'd give the vote to dogs if he thought it would give him an advantage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    Neale - watch the BBC news lat night. Mr Salmond made it clear that there is NO deal yet agreed despite what the Tory Bullingdon Club Boy said. NOT done !! Did you respond to the Scottish Govt consulation? You will also find that despite Mr Salmond's success in these talks - the SNP policy was never to have 2 questions. The British Govt would not give the legal power anyway. What is your point?

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    So Lord Forsyth is worried that MPs may be influenced (forced) by the electorate they are supposed to represent

    There's a novel idea, I wish I shared his confidence

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.


    "In fact I think their input is perhaps more relevant than my own in the long term. The choices they make will affect their future long after we are gone."

    This is a silly argument. This potential change will affect people in this country long into the future even after current 16 yr olds have died of old age, so presumably fetuses should be given the vote, or sperm...

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    At 16 most people are still forming political opinions and are easily swayed by the smiling grinning politician that promises them the moon on a stick, by 18 they've seen most of it before and are a little more cynical.

    Having said that i've met some very mature 16/17 year olds that dont fall into that trap and some very gullable 30-40 years olds that constantly do.

  • Comment number 257.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Prisoners should get a vote. If they can serve a sentence then they should have a say in the government that holds them prisoner and whether or not they are imprisoned fairly, justly or even at all.

    What? Too much? Wanna see what policies someone who thinks that Argentina is an Arsenal player will vote for?

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    247. X_Sticks
    "How do you reconcile independence with SNP being pro-Europe and wanting closer integration?"

    Post independence we'll be having a referendum on Europe. The people of Scotland will have a say on European membership. The SNP stance is neither here nor there."

    News to me. When did SNP announce that it would be having this referendum?

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    Why don't we want 16 year olds voting, because they'd make decide based up stupid, ill informed, selfish motivations. That's exactly what democracy is & what each group, class, section of society does. Democracy is a system of legal plunder, one that every party wants to participate in at the expense of someone else. The law should protect Life, Liberty & Property (this includes personal income).

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    Well us adults can decide who we want to run the country, so let the kids have a go; they certainly can't do any worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    223. Eddie "Peakeen - SNP supporters do NOT want to turn the clock back 400 years (Union of the Parliaments -1707 - 305 years ago. Confusing it with the Union of the Crowns 1603?"

    Not at all, there already is a Scottish Parliament (unfortunately). The SNP now hope to break up the United Kingdom.

    Are you arguing that turning the clock back "only" 300 years, rather than 400, is a good idea?

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    I would trust the judgement of my teenagers and many of their friends more than many 'adults' I encounter. In fact I think their input is perhaps more relevant than my own in the long term. The choices they make will affect their future long after we are gone.


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