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Mon 29 December 2003

UNISON calls for 16 year-old councillors

Scotland's largest public service union is calling for the Scottish Government to take radical action to address increasing disaffection for politics from Scotland's young people. In the union's response to the Government's consultation on local governance the union argues that the age limit for local government candidates should be dropped to 16.

"This is a real opportunity for the Scottish Government to make a difference." Said Dave Watson, UNISON's Scottish Organiser for Policy. "The Electoral Commission is currently talking about reducing the voting age below 18, and the Executive is proposing a reduction of the age limit for councillors to 18. We think they should grasp the nettle and equalise both voting and candidacy limits at 16."

The union argues for this move as part of a package of reforms aimed at encouraging wider participation in local democracy. They also are arguing for much more relaxation of the rules barring local authority staff from standing for local councils, increased use of alternative voting methods such as postal voting, and fairer remuneration for councillors.

"We feel that the Scottish Government has it within their power to make a major difference to local democratic accountability."

Said Dave Watson. "Young people in Scotland can marry at 16, be called up, and pay tax and National Insurance. To refuse them the democratic rights everyone else has, simply serves to alienate them from the political system. We have seen this disengagement happening and think this is a step towards dealing with it."

The union has over 70,000 members working for Scottish Local Government, and is currently running a major campaign to revitalise Scottish Public Services. The accountability of public services to the Scottish people is central to that campaign.


For Further Information Please Contact: - Dave Watson(Scottish Org - Policy and Info) 07787 558 410(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m) 2