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Council / Community council election age limit lowered

Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

PEOPLE aged 16 and 17 will now be able to stand in future community council elections.

It comes after changes to the community council constitution were approved at a meeting of the full Shetland Islands Council last week.

Candidates previously had to be 18 or over and on the electoral roll to stand in an election for any of the isles’ community councils.

The reduction to 16 will also extend to the voting age, which is in line with local and Scottish elections.

By-elections to fill vacant community council seats are due to be held later this year.

There is historically a lack of contested seats in Shetland’s community council elections, leading to repeated calls for more people to considering standing.

Meanwhile another change approved by the council was a permanent alteration to allow meetings to continue to be held remotely.

The changes were subject to consultation with community councils.

During last week’s council meeting Shetland West member Catherine Hughson welcomed the reduction in the age limit for candidates.

“Anything that encourages members of the local community to stand is going to a benefit,” she said. “But we’re all aware of the number of vacancies sitting in community councils at the moment.”

She wondered if there could be more promotion into the benefits of standing for community councils.

Convener Malcolm Bell said it was a “fair point” but noted that some promotional work was carried out in the last elections in 2018.

North Isles member Ryan Thomson, meanwhile, said a community councillor “should be the most important role in politics”.

“I think that going forward as a council lowering the age to 16 is very, very welcome, and I think that we should undertake a process to see what we can do further to encourage and empower local community councils,” he said.