WHEN the idea of engaging 16 and 17-year-olds in the independence referendum was first mooted, there were howls of derision from opposition politicians who suspected a cynical ploy to win votes from young people who supposedly lacked the maturity or experience to make decisions about their country's future.
That scepticism was proved to have been based on ignorance about a generation whose intelligent engagement with the independence debate has often been in refreshing contrast to the antiquated style of politics that prevails in this country.
By the time the Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Bill reached its final debating stage last summer, it was passed decisively with only 12 MSPs voting against. Even Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, who opposed the move on the grounds the franchise shouldn't be changed for a single vote, said on BBC1 Question Time that young people's involvement in the referendum issue had been "a revelation".
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We agree, which is why this newspaper is proud to have joined forces with The Arches in Glasgow to give young Scots a chance to join contemporary musicians in a lively debate about youth, politics and Scotland's future. Many politicians are happy to present the independence debate as a simple question of Yes or No. It isn't, and we are delighted to offer young people an opportunity to talk about the questions that matter to them.
Last week, the Labour Party announced plans to place lowering the voting age at the heart of their next manifesto. If 16-year-olds are old enough to pay tax, they have a right to participate in the decisions that affect how those taxes are spent. We are privileged to live in a country that will see them exercising that right for the first time.