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Landmark participation project gives children and young people a voice at national level

Participation isn’t something that can be done once and then crossed off the list. It is an ongoing conversation that will make our society more equal, more interesting and fundamentally, it is the right of every child in Scotland, writes Emma Rogan

FMQT: Next Generation will be the first-ever First Minister’s Question Time for children and young people. The event has been co-designed by a group of 10 children and young people (the Design Team) and supported by a further nine young people in an Online Team.

The interest that we have already had from children and young people across Scotland demonstrates just how important a project like this is. And we haven’t even had the main event yet!

The response to our call for applications to be part of the children and young people’s Design Team was amazing.

Children and young people from the ages of 8 to 18, from all across Scotland and from all kinds of backgrounds, contacted us to tell us about what they are passionate about and why they would like to be involved in this project. We heard time and time again from children and young people who have things to say, and who are aware of the big decisions that are being made by adults that will have a huge impact on their lives and futures, but which they have not had the opportunity to be involved in. They want the chance to have their say, and enable others to do the same:

"I believe that those in power should be doing more to actively seek out and interact with young people, otherwise, decisions are made without input from the people it affects most. Can it really be considered my future if all of the decisions are made for me?" (Rosie)

"I am a care experienced young person and feel like our voices are never heard. I would love the opportunity to advocate for care experienced young people during this time. I think that although I have good people around me that do listen and try and help, their hands are sometimes tied because of decisions being made by the government." (Katie)

"Children and young people have an ever-increasing role in society and I believe everyone should have a say about their future."(Findlay)

"I am worried about nuclear weapons and nuclear power and rainforests and global warming. I am also worried about fair payment as some people aren’t getting paid fairly – they can do the same job but one person gets paid more. I am worried about Brexit." (Zander)

"Young people and children will be the future employees and home owners and taxpayers. Whatever decisions are currently made will have a powerful impact on the lives of young people and possible opportunities that they will have in the future. For example owning a home (affordable housing), further education and employment." (Sally)

It was this theme of their futures being impacted by decisions adults are making now that led to the Design Team choosing the event’s name, FMQT: Next Generation.

Children and young people are the next generation of politicians, voters and, as Sally said, employees, taxpayers and homeowners.

Many people also see children and young people as the next generation of citizens. However, this is to do them a disservice.  Children and young people are already active citizens with rights.  And it is for this reason that they deserve the opportunity to interact with decision-makers at the highest level to express their views and ask questions.

There are currently two FMQT: Next Generation events planned. We hope that these will be the first of many and that the legacy of this project, beyond the Year of Young People, will be a channel of communication between children and young people and the First Minister of Scotland, whoever that might be. Participation isn’t something that can be done once and then crossed off the list. It is an ongoing conversation that will make our society more equal, more interesting and fundamentally, it is the right of every child in Scotland.1

"Imagine this, instead of thinking of people vandalising and shoplifting when you think of teenagers (even though this is not all teenagers, it is still a stereotype that is largely believed), imagine instead the same teenagers discussing politics, and being interested in what happens to their country. And why? Purely because they had a choice in what happens. In short, I believe that it is not a case of why should we [involve children and young people in decisions], but more why haven’t we?" (Josh)

  1. Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that all children have the right to have a say and been taken seriously in decisions that affect them

Emma Rogan is our Senior Policy Officer (Participation and Engagement)

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