23 Sep 2014

Lower voting age to 16, says Alex Salmond

Alex Salmond says the referendum proved 16- and 17-year-olds can be trusted to vote, and tells Scottish politicians they need to hold Westminister’s “feet to the fire” over devolution promises.

In a reflective speech to Scotland’s parliament, the first minister said that both sides of the referendum debate should be proud of what they had achieved.

He thanked the Scottish people for what he said was “one of the greatest democratic experiences in Scotland’s history” and said the two-year campaign ahead of the independence referendum last week had “energised and enthused” the population in politics. “We are a better nation (now): more informed, more enabled and more empowered,” he added.

Alex Salmond said last Friday that he would resign from his position, and from leadership of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), in November, after 55 per cent of the Scottish people voted against independence.

There is not a shred of evidence for arguing now that 16- and 17-year-olds should not be allowed to vote. Alex Salmond

The result was a huge disappointment to the SNP and to Mr Salmond personally, who has spent his life campaigning for an independent Scotland.

But in his address to MSPs on their first day back at Holyrood after the referendum, he focused largely on the positives. His speech will be followed by two days of debate on the future of Scotland and addresses by the leaders of Scotland’s other main political parties.

He called for Scottish politicians to lobby for 16- and 17-year-olds to be allowed to vote in next year’s general election, saying: “There is not a shred of evidence for arguing now that 16- and 17-year-olds should not be allowed to vote.

“They proved themselves to be serious passionate and committed citizens that we knew they were.”

SNP now UK's third biggest party after surge in members

And he said that parliament, regardless of what side of the independence debate they were on, should ensure Westminster delivered on its promises, and said that David Cameron’s intention to introduce more devolved powers in England, as well as Scotland, would “risk throwing the entire process into delay and confusion… and would also directly contradict promises made during the campaign”.

Any enhanced powers should be judged on three tests, he added: whether Scottish parliament has genuine power to create jobs, if it is able to build a fairer society, and if they allow Scotland to have a “more articulate voice on the international stage”.

But he added: “The true guardians of progress are not political parties here and in Westminster – they are the energised electorate of Scotland.”

Mr Salmond also said that he wanted to “establish the full circumstances” surroundig an alleged Treasury leak at the start of September about the Royal Bank of Scotland’s plan to register in England in a post-independence Scotland – somnething that Mr Salmond said was market-sensitive and should not have been leaked while the meeting was still going on.

He added that those responsible for causing trouble at Glasgow’s George Square, where hundreds of unionists demonstrated after the election result on Friday, and were later met by a pro-independence crowd, should be penalised.