The youngest generation voice at the centre of the Scottish referendum debate

Young people meet to discuss their views for the future of the United Kingdom and the relationship of the nations and regions.

In just over two weeks, the people of Scotland will go to the polls to vote in a historic referendum on Scottish independence. Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, it will undoubtedly be a watershed moment in the history of British democracy.  For the first time in the history of these islands, sixteen and seventeen year olds will be given the vote.  After the polls close on 18th September, and regardless of a Yes or a No victory, the next stage of the referendum journey will begin in earnest with discussion and debate about the future of politics in the British Isles. As a youthful William Hague famously remarked to delegates at the 1977 Conservative Party conference, “half of you won’t be here in 30 or 40 years’ time.” It is the voices of young people, the generation that will live with the consequences of the deals brokered in the months after September’s referendum, that need to be heard loud and clearly.

It is with this task in mind that the UK’s Changing Union: Our Future project (a group of young professionals examining and disseminating the future of the British constitution) will today be welcoming delegates to discuss the future of the United Kingdom at a constitutional convention. This “Young People’s Constitutional Convention” will bring together, for the first time, young people and professionals from a range of charities, organisations and political parties aged between 18 and 30 years old to debate and take part in a series of cross cutting discussions on some of the key themes of the UK devolution debate.

In particular, the convention will look at three key issues affecting the UK’s future: social welfare, finance and the constitutional architecture of the United Kingdom. Led by impartial experts, each of these sessions will allow delegates to contribute their ideas and opinions in small working groups, ensuring that attendees gain the most value possible from participating in this unique event. And to further enable delegates to make the most of this occasion, the Our Future project is delighted that Lord Jeremy Purvis of Tweed, the Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Reform, Decentralisation and Devolution will give the convention’s keynote speech.

The work of the convention will not, however, finish today. The debates and discussions from today’s event will be recorded and published in a report to be launched in the autumn, after the referendum in Scotland.  It is hoped that this report will be young people’s contribution to the debate around the future of the Union after the Scottish referendum on September 18th.

Whatever the Scottish result, the conversation about the future relationship of the nations and regions that constitute the United Kingdom is only just beginning. We believe that that the voices of the young people of the UK need to be heard in this debate. Today’s convention, we hope, will play a small part in making this voice heard.

Adam Evans is a PHd student at the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University and is also a member of the UK’s Changing Union: Our Future project.

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