Scotland politics

Mhairi Black calls for 16 and 17-year-olds to get EU vote

Mhairi Black

The UK's youngest MP has called for 16 and 17-year-olds to be given the vote in the forthcoming EU referendum.

Mhairi Black said the "remarkable" role of young people in Scotland's independence referendum showed they can fully contribute to the debate.

Her comments come after the House of Lords voted earlier this week to amend the EU referendum Bill to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to take part in the poll.

The UK government has said it will seek to overturn the amendment.

If the move went ahead it would see some 1.5 million extra teenagers eligible to vote in the referendum which Prime Minister David Cameron is committed to holding by the end of 2017.

Image caption The EU referendum will take place before the end of 2017

Ms Black, SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, said: "We know that those who get into the habit of voting early are more likely to vote often for life.

"It is also important that those who will have to live longest with the decision on whether or not to stay in the European Union have their say.

"The SNP has always argued that the EU referendum should meet the gold standard set by Scotland's independence referendum, where 16 and 17-year-olds were allowed to vote and participate in such an important, democratic decision for the first time.

"We hope the vote in the House of Lords will force the Tory Government to reconsider their opposition and hold a more democratic debate."

Scottish Liberal Democrat peer Alison Suttie said she supported 16 and 17-year-olds being given the vote in the EU poll.

She added: "16-year-olds are mature enough to work and pay tax. They are mature enough to join the army or get married. Suggesting that they are incapable of understanding political debate is patronising in the extreme."

Following the vote in the Lords, the UK government said it was wrong to change the franchise for the EU referendum "by the back door" and it would seek to reverse it when the bill returns to the Commons.

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