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Education / Transport and environment key issues on youngsters’ minds, ballot reveals

Shetland MSYPs Leighton Anderson (left) and Jonathan Dorrat (right). Photo: SIC

TRANSPORT, the environment and mental health have emerged as the top three issues important to Shetland’s young people after a ballot of schoolchildren across the isles.

A total of 886 people in Shetland took part in the annual ballot last year, which is designed to inform what subjects should be debated in the UK Youth Parliament.

The figures were presented to members of Shetland Islands Council’s education and families committee on Monday by the isles’ two MSYPs Jonathan Dorrat and Leighton Anderson.

The Make Your Mark ballot asked young folk in secondary schools what issues were important to them on a UK, Scottish and local level.

The top three local issues in Shetland once the ballots were counted after “many hours and several paper cuts” were transport, protecting the environment and mental health.

The top three issues on a Scottish level for Shetlanders were mental health, knife crime and child poverty.

On a UK level local people picked the environment, voting at 16 and welcoming refugees/tackling hate crime.

Sixty two per cent of secondary school pupils in Shetland took part in the ballot, with the turnout varying across the isles.

In Baltasound the turnout was 100 per cent, while at the Anderson High School it was 52 per cent.

Anderson said Shetland had the highest participation rate based on percentage turnout in Scotland.

Dorrat added that it was “not a huge surprise” that mental health was still a concern for youngsters.

“I believe educating young people about mental health (…) is essential to change the current outlook,” he said.

Anderson, meanwhile, is also a member for the Highlands and Islands in the UK youth parliament, and he got the chance to speak at House of Commons last year.

He raised the subject of puffin numbers in Shetland, while he also took interest in hearing from other young parliamentarians from around the UK.

“The knife crime debate really affected me and highlighted how lucky we are to not have such horrors on our doorstep,” he told councillors.

The MSYPs also called on elected members to “work with us” to ensure information gathered from Shetland’s young people is used to make a change.

Education and families committee chairman George Smith said the MYSPs’ message was “really powerful and really well presented”.

“The issues are very much the issues of the day,” he said.

“It’s a very responsible position that young folk are taking and I think we should be looking to engage as much as we can.”

Smith added that Dorrat and Anderson “certainly made their mark on the committee this morning”, saying it vindicated a decision last year to include MSYPs on the committee.

Councillors on the whole, meanwhile, expressed a desire to collaborate closely with the MSYPs and young people.