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Community / Letting 16 and 17 year olds stand in community council elections a wise idea, MSP says

Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

SUPPORT has been shown locally for giving 16 and 17 year olds the chance to stand in community council elections.

As it stands in Shetland candidates have to be 18 or over and on the electoral roll to stand in an election for any of the isles’ community councils.

However, there is the opportunity for people as young as 12 to be co-opted onto a community council as an additional member.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart wrote to Lerwick Community Council recently to say that one of her constituents asked if there was any prospect of Shetland Islands Council (SIC) lowering the candidacy to the age of 16 for community council elections.

Wishart said that the SIC confirmed it was unable to consider such a change at the moment due to the ongoing review by the Local Government Boundary Commission into electoral arrangements and wards.

However, a review of the Community Council Scheme of Establishment – expected before the next community council elections in 2022 – would include consideration of age.

Wishart, a former Lerwick Community Council member, said she supported the prospect of lowering the age to 16 as it would be an “important step in helping to bring young people’s perspectives to the forefront of democratic debates, while engaging more young people in politics”.

Across Scotland the guidance is that the minimum age for standing in community council elections is 16.

A host of local authorities across the country have taken heed of this and allow 16 and 17 year olds to stand, including Shetland’s northern neighbours Orkney.

At a meeting on Tuesday Lerwick Community Council member Averil Simpson said she felt the group could do more to remind youngsters, via Anderson High School, about the age for co-opted members.

“I propose that we make it clear that they can come from the age of 12 as a co-opted member,” she said.

Gary Robinson, who was chairing the meeting, said that Lerwick Community Council should “support the SIC in terms of the review, and write to the school as well”.