This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

Currently, you have to be at least 18 before you can be an MSP. 

That could change though. 

Last year, the Scottish Government launched a consultation looking at possible electoral reforms which included extending the right to stand for elected office to those aged 16 or 17.

However, the consultation did not mention upper age limits. Should it have?

According to my own calculations, the median age in Holyrood is 51, roughly a decade older than the ONS estimate of the median age for Scotland. 

Of our 129 MSPs, three are over 70, while another 21 are over 60. Eight MSPs are old enough to claim their state pension. 

While you can be an MSP at any age north of 18, it's worth noting that we have a mandatory retirement age of 75 for judicial office holders in Scotland. 

You cannot be a justice of the peace, a Sheriff or a Lord President of the Court of Session and 76. 

If that rule applied to the Scottish Parliament, then, well, we’d lose SNP firebrand Christine Grahame who turns 79 on Saturday. 

She is the oldest MSP Scotland has ever had and is on course to be Holyrood’s first octogenarian. 

It would take a brave idiot to suggest to her face that she’s too old for the job. 

She was there in the chamber on Thursday, asking the First Minister about The Herald on Sunday’s splash about NatureScot's awarding of licenses to kill at least 46,985 wild animals spanning 84 species.

On Wednesday, she had a question for the Finance Minister on the impact of public sector pay settlements on the provision of services. 

On Tuesday, she held a debate on NHS Borders' paediatric ambulatory care unit. 

There have been written questions and motions tabled over the summer too. Never mind Holyrood’s oldest MSP, she must be in with a shot of being Holyrood’s busiest. 

Last year a YouGov poll found that 58% of Americans would back the introduction of a maximum age for politicians. 

That’s maybe because next year’s election for President looks increasingly likely to be fought between 81-year-old Joe Biden and 78-year-old Donald Trump, neither of whom is in particularly good health. 

Those poll results have been getting an airing again in recent days because of Mitch McConnell, the 81-year-old Republican leader in the US Senate who has now frozen twice in front of reporters.

Last month, he remained silent for more than 20 seconds after a journalist asked him about his plans for the future. 

“We’re going to need a minute,” an aide said ushering the veteran politician away from the hacks. 

The Herald: Reporters were baffled when US Republican veteran Mitch McConnell bizarrely froze on two separate occasionsReporters were baffled when US Republican veteran Mitch McConnell bizarrely froze on two separate occasions (Image: Newsquest)

He’s not even the oldest senator. McConnell is nine years younger than Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who has had her own cognitive struggles recently.

He is also eight years younger than Republican, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who, by the way, has indicated he will stand again, as he has “unfinished business” to attend to. 

However, when it comes to elderly politicians, the US has nothing on the House of Lords.

The oldest working peer is 98-year-old Baron Christopher. He’s now the last remaining British parliamentarian who also served in the Second World War.

Politics, it seems, is getting older. 

If Labour wins the next election, 61-year-old Sir Keir Starmer will be the oldest person to move into No 10 since James Callaghan in 1976. 

Meanwhile, Mhairi Black’s decision to stand down from the Commons looks set to send the average age of the SNP Westminster Group skyrocketing. 

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A couple of years ago, I interviewed Jackson Carlaw for Holyrood magazine. He told me that when he attended the first group meeting following the 2021 election he was astonished to learn that at 67 he was now the oldest Tory MSP.

When I asked if he was thinking of not standing at the next election, he said: “I remember John Major when he lost the 1997 election, he came out onto Downing Street and said when the curtain comes down, it’s time to get off the stage.

“And I am conscious, however young I might feel, that some politicians have maybe carried on longer than they should have done.” 

“Part of your contract,” he added, “is to make way for others at some point”. 

What struck me about looking at that list of older MSPs is how many of them have, at one point or another in recent years, been a pain in the arse for their parties. 

Maybe it’s because when you reach a certain age you know there's no reward in toadying up to the boss. 

I don't know what the answer is here, who should get to decide on when a politician makes way, but I do know that Holyrood would be far poorer without Christine Grahame. 

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