Young people from colleges across Scotland – from Shetland to the Scottish Borders – will take over the Scottish Parliament’s Debating Chamber on Friday to discuss the important issues that affect their everyday lives.
Your Scottish Parliament, an event aimed at 16 -19 year old Further Education students, will provide a platform for young people to have their voices heard on a range of ‘hot topics’ such as moving from school to college and how to tackle bullying.
As well as a live Q&A session in the Debating Chamber with the Presiding Officer, the participants will have the chance to have their say on a number of issues that are currently being debated in the Scottish Parliament. One of the discussions will centre on how to encourage younger people to vote in local council elections, an issue which is being examined by the Local Government and Communities Committee.
The Presiding Officer, the Rt Hon Ken Macintosh MSP, who will Chair the session in the Debating Chamber said:
“The event is called Your Scottish Parliament for a good reason. We want young people to know that this is their Scottish Parliament and their voice matters.
“For many students attending Your Scottish Parliament, they may be at a turning point in their lives when they’re considering what to do next – there may even be some future parliamentarians. But whatever path they choose in the future, as they approach adulthood we want them to know that the Scottish Parliament is open and here for them.”
As part of the event, Your Scottish Parliament will feature a panel of inspirational speakers. Two of the panel members are young people who have overcome barriers to make a huge difference in their communities.
Rachael Wallace, who is 26 years old and is from Alyth, is one of the speakers on the panel. Rachael, who is a PhD Law student at the University of Dundee, has cerebral palsy. She is currently petitioning for the establishment of specialist services on the NHS for adults with the condition.
“I’ve come across various challenges in my life. My condition means I’m a full time wheelchair user but this has not stopped me from being successful and doing things I’m passionate about.
“I started my own public petition to speak up for those with cerebral palsy who can’t. Because of my petition, this important issue is being discussed at the Scottish Parliament and I believe it will help to improve care for adults with cerebral palsy across Scotland in the future.
“I hope my experience inspires younger people to make the most of the Scottish Parliament. At the end of the day, it’s everyone’s Scottish Parliament and there are lots of opportunities to have your voice heard and make a difference.”
Ross Foley, who is 17 years old and is an elite para-badminton player from Dalkeith, will also appear on the Your Scottish Parliament panel.
“I have a type of dwarfism called Achondroplasia. In the past, I used to feel quite low about my disability. I found that some people stared and laughed at me in public, which got me down. It also sometimes stopped me fully taking part in group sports in school.
“But I then joined a badminton club in Musselburgh, and that’s when I discovered that I was pretty good at it. It’s really built my confidence and taught me that my disability doesn’t have to hold me back. I’m now improving my badminton skills each week, and I hope to make it to the Paralympics in 2024.
“I’m really looking forward to speaking to people my age at Your Scottish Parliament. The main message I want to get across is that, despite challenges in life that many of us face, anything is possible with a positive mind set.”
Your Scottish Parliament takes place on Friday 24 March 2017. The Scottish Parliament’s photographer Andrew Cowan will supply photographs on request. Please contact him on 0131 348 5878.