Be Active Citizens and Get Involved in the Scottish Parliament Elections

A Scottish Parliament Election will take place on Thursday May 6th.

All Scottish residents aged 16 and over, can register to vote in these elections. You can register to vote here.

It’s also worth thinking about voting by post this election due to the ongoing risks associated with coronavirus. You can apply for a postal vote here.

As Scouts we want our young people to be active citizens and our own member surveys show that young people in Scouts are, on average, more likely to vote in elections than their peers who are not in Scouts. This is an important time to engage with democracy and here are some simple ways to bring the election to life in your groups.

While we still have restrictions in place, all of these suggestions work really well for online meetings using apps like Zoom.

 

Hold an online hustings event

A hustings is a bit like a question time style debate where candidates come together to talk about why they are standing for election. It’s also a chance for people to put questions forward to candidates. Hustings provide voters with an opportunity to hear the views of candidates or parties.

A hustings is usually chaired by one person, who will put questions to the candidates and make sure that all of the panellists get a fair chance to speak. 

 

Tips for holding a hustings event

You must make sure to invite candidates for each party. It’s important to stay impartial; Scouts cannot be party political.  If for any reason one of the parties is unable to attend your hustings, you should make that clear at the start of the event and explain the reason why. 

It’s good practice to allow each candidate to introduce themselves and spend 1-2 minutes talking about why they are standing for election. 

For the debate part of the hustings you may want to have some questions submitted in advance from the young people, you can then choose whether they read out their question or if the Chair asks their questions. 

Allow each candidate or party representative attending a fair chance to answer questions and, where appropriate, a reasonable opportunity to respond to points made against them by other candidates or party representatives.

 

Hold your own election like Lanark Explorers 

Explorer Scouts from Lanark held their own election night as part of UK Parliament Week last year and could be a great programme idea ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections. The night had a huge impact on their group, ultimately leading to a refocus of their plans for the year. Here’s how they did it. 

At home the Explorers researched what issues were important to them. When they met up, they were divided into four different groups or “parties” to produce manifestos using the information they had researched. Using Zoom you can break groups into different rooms to discuss this. 

Each manifesto had to contain local issues, national issues and a world position. A huge variety of issues were raised by our young people including the environment, free public transport for young people, free education, mental health, gender recognition, gender based issues, Brexit, mental health support and giving every child the best start in life.

The groups chose a party leader, who presented the manifestos to the rest of the group. They then held a “Question Time” style debate where people could put forward questions on the manifestos presented. The young people were encouraged to challenge any assertions and asked to add post it notes with alternative positions.

They also they took the opportunity to discuss where in the political structures within the UK each of the key policies would sit – Local Authority, Scottish Parliament and UK Parliament.

The group then held a vote in true parliamentary style, and ‘elected’ a party.  

However, more importantly, at the end of all this the group ended up agreeing their own Lanark Explorer position on a number of issues and this ultimately led to a change in their programme focus for the year, with the young people using this to link into the Million Hands activities and partners. 

 

Other resources

Our friends at Young Scot have put together a fantastic resource with everything you need to know about the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections. 

You can find it on their website here 

If you do decide to run a hustings or a programme around the upcoming elections, we’d love to hear about it! You can email Janis.mcculloch@scouts.scot to let us know.