The word ‘alienation’ was used fervently by Jimmy Reid in his Glasgow University rectorial address, delivered with the gusto lacking in today's politics, in 1972. Reid believed alienation was widespread and defined it as ‘the feeling of despair and hopelessness that pervades people excluded from the processes of decision making’.

I feel that, 52 years later, it is worrying that the entire speech could have been written this year.

Never in the near decade of my short voting life have I been so politically disengaged or felt so unrepresented in an election. At 27, it worries me that political fatigue has set in so early.

An independence vote that divided the country, a Brexit vote that the vast majority of Scotland voted against but is stuck with, and a sense of loss from two years of restricted living due to a global pandemic will do that to you.

Couple that with a leadership race between mostly middle-aged men in suits who insist on focusing on party politics instead of engaging with a disillusioned public.

Can you really blame me for feeling a bit put out?

Lip service promises to help the next generation buy their first homes, provide more workplace opportunities, and offer tax cuts for the worst off all feel a bit too broken record.

This week, BBC host Nick Robinson compared Rishi Sunak to “a guy in a pub who borrows 50 quid” and then promises to pay it back but never does. The UK Government has made the young people in this country take out a Klarna payment plan for that 50 quid, and they are drowning in insurmountable payday loan debt.

Jimmy Reid celebrates being elected Glasgow University rectorJimmy Reid celebrates being elected Glasgow University rector (Image: free)

It’s also the debt of what could be if the future was focused on the people who will be living in it.

Becoming a homeowner was once a rite of passage for a 20-something, for current generations of that age, it feels more like a pipe dream. The house price to average earnings ratio is the worst it has been in 150 years, and many young people are trapped in a cycle of exorbitant rents meaning they can’t save for a deposit to get anywhere near a mortgage.

Glasgow hosting COP26 gave me hope that positive change might be on the way and that a focus on tackling climate change would bring young voices to the fore. However, once again, the promises proved to be nothing more than PR headlines for the parties involved, and the targets set then look to be scrapped.

Seeing figurehead after figurehead roll across chamber floors amid controversies and scandals creates a breeding ground for national-scale cynicism – something Scotland didn’t need anyway.

When the odd conversation does venture into politics, everyone I know has had the same despondent response: ‘I don’t know who I’m going to vote for this time.’

Politics is very personal, but a collective disengagement of the population cannot put the blame on the populous.

When you have a ‘selection’ of leaders to vote for who lack any form of variety or wide scope of representation across generations and communities, who can blame people for switching off politically?

The average age of the leaders in contention is 47, with the current First Minister John Swinney topping the table at 60 years old – while doing everything in his power to try and appeal to the younger audience, like (mis)quoting Taylor Swift songs.


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Scotland has some great, younger political talent in people like Mhairi Black, but even she has recently stepped back from the 'depressing' Commons at 29 years old.

If young politicians are losing their passion and further aspirations to climb the political ladder, then what chance do younger voters have to keep engaged?

If youth is wasted on the young, then politics is being wasted on the old.

Predictions are that we could be in for the lowest turnout to a general election on record, and amid a cost of living crisis, increases in poverty and income inequality, and distrust in government on a rapid rise – it’s hard to see how it couldn’t be.

The only way to drive change and to provide a future that excites the future generations of this country is to give them a voice, or at least someone that speaks to them.

I don’t see Scotland being ready for another independence referendum at the moment, and the SNP drum must start beating to another tune to garner trust and build support.

Surely, though, we can expect more from our country's possible leaders than to have to pick the best of a bad bunch.

I long to feel passionate about a party and a leader again; it’s vital that the younger generations are given that basic requirement of being represented once more. Change is the only way that I see Scotland becoming the country that I hope it can.

I long for a future that excites me, where I have a voice, not one where deaf ears and idle hands pilfer the passion from generations. However, without leadership that welcomes change and embraces Scotland's future generations, when will we ever see it?

I fear that generational alienation is much like fashion, a cycle that the current system we have is doomed to repeat. Fifty years on from Jimmy Reid’s address on it, it seems we already have.