Young people at heart of technology debate in Holyrood


Chancellor Gordon Brown and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates heard that Scotland’s youth are the citizens of today, not tomorrow at the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum, which concluded at Holyrood today.

Chancellor Gordon Brown and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates heard that Scotland’s youth are the citizens of today, not tomorrow at the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum, which concluded at Holyrood today.

The Scottish Parliament, Microsoft and Young Scot with support from the Scottish Executive arranged for a team of 14 from across Scotland and Europe to take part in the Forum and quiz Bill Gates and the Chancellor.

The question and answer session was chaired by the Presiding Officer George Reid MSP, who commented:

"Young people have a right to expect to be at the heart of debates about the future. Their presence in this working Parliament throughout the debates – and valuable contributions - have been an important part of making this conference stand out from other Government Leaders Forums.”

The first question was by Callum Birks, 17, from Edinburgh.

He said: "Speaking on behalf of the youth delegates from Scotland and the rest of Europe who have been attending this conference thanks to Microsoft, the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Executive and Young Scot, we are encouraged and excited by what we have heard, especially those elements relating to improved education.

"But in our view some key issues and ideas that are innovative and have widescale impact are still to be addressed. We have as a group produced our own set of recommendations which we would invite delegates to view and consider at

"In the term “ICT” it’s the technology which, in many ways, bothers us the least. We are comfortable with technology – it’s the information and communication elements we believe should be urgently addressed.

"Young people have a key contribution to make to these debates and ideas – inviting us here is a good first step.

"We are today’s citizens, not tomorrow’s, and want to be part of the solution now.

"So, Mr Gates, when are you going to have another one of these conferences for young people from across Europe? We’ll help you to plan it.”

Mr Gates responded:

"Youth participation has been taken to a new level here and we would love to sit down and talk. After all, we do host one of these Forums every year.”


In the second question by the Young Scot team, Lenna Vrommans, 18, from the Netherlands said:

"Taking part in this conference, young people, technology and democracy have been the key topics that have featured.

"We have formed the impression that many politicians are afraid of technology – we’re not sure why.

"We are particularly interested in exploring how young people can use technology to influence change and hope you will help us achieve this.

"In the words of the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer George Reid, we are seeking e-empowerment, not just e-engagement.

"As someone who has great influence in the UK and globally, what is your challenge to each delegate and also to young people in our communities, so that Edinburgh 2007 is remembered as a conference that made a difference?”

Responding to the questions, Mr Brown replied:

"The idea of decisions being made by people getting together in smoke-filled rooms, that’s all over. People now know that there is a strong way to influence opinion by the likes of blogs, emails and petitions.

"People are recognising that they have more power but can that power be harnessed to change things for good? There’s got to be a lot of that to come in political systems.

"You can no longer make the best decisions unless you involve everyone in the decision making process – in the future all the major decisions will involve people in the making of them.

"The old 19th Century way of doing things is over. People are now recognising that and bringing forward change and governments have to adapt to that.”

Deputy CEO of Young Scot, the national youth information agency, Louise Macdonald added after the event:

"The Microsoft conference placed young people at the heart of a debate concerning matters relevant to their lives and was an amazing opportunity.

"As citizens of today it is imperative that young people are able to voice their opinions on issues concerning them, and also that influential leaders commit to respecting them. The UN Convention on Human Rights recognises the importance of young people’s opinions being acknowledged in matters of relevance to them and we believe this is absolutely necessary in helping young people to become active members of society.”

Raymond O’Hare, Director, Microsoft Scotland said:

"The Scottish Parliament is to be commended for its work in pushing technology to open up the democratic landscape to make sure it is inclusive for all.”


The Microsoft Government Leaders Forum is one of Microsoft’s flagship events for government, parliamentarians, education and business leaders across the continent. It is being supported by a partnership of the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive. This is the first time such a prestigious event has come to the United Kingdom and, particularly, in the live context of a working legislature such as the Scottish Parliament.

Amongst those attending from Scotland were:

Callum Birks, 17, from Edinburgh

Chris Bolland from Airdrie,

Rajiv Joshi, 22, from Glasgow (Youth Parliament)

Hilary Lynn, 19, from Glasgow (Youth Parliament)

Johnpaul McCabe, 18, from Johnstone

Rachel McCullough, 17, from Arbroath

Jamie O’Neill, 20, from Glasgow

Craig Peoples, 19, from Stirling

Ryan Smith, 17, from Cunningsburgh


Adam Stevenson from Kelso.

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