Cameron to let children vote on Scottish independence
16-year-olds in the UK can’t purchase cigarettes or alcohol; they can’t drive; they can’t leave home or get married without parental consent*; they can’t give blood; they can join the army, but can’t go on active service. They can’t obtain a street trading licence; they can’t go abroad to act or perform music professionally; they can’t get a credit card; they can’t apply for a mortgage, or own houses or land. They can’t be called for jury service; can’t change their name; and can’t act as an executor of a person's will. They can’t place bets, purchase fireworks or become a local councillor. In Jersey and Guernsey – discriminatory horror of horrors – they can’t even legally have gay sex.
But HM Government is contemplating giving 126,000 Scottish 16 and 17-year-olds a vote on the irreversible break-up of the United Kingdom in Alex Salmond’s 2014 referendum on Scottish independence.
If you can trust Scottish children with discernment and good judgment on something as seismic as a nation’s political independence, why not trust 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds across the UK to vote on more trivial matters like matters like taxation, welfare, health or education? Surely extending the franchise in Scotland alone is racist against the English, Welsh and Northern Irish? Or is this provision to apply only in referenda? If so, can we be sure that when we come to vote on the EU that all 16 and 17-year-olds are included, since (against all the odds and countering years of propaganda) the vast majority of them appear to be turning against Le Grand Projet?
Or is this enfranchisement applicable to the independence referendum only; a constitutional one-off? If so, is that not rather overt gerrymandering? Why should the constituency that elected the current First Minister not be the same as that which votes in his referendum? Surely the age group that determines his success or failure ought to be the same as that which gave him his mandate?
Apparently, a reduction in the voting age is the Prime Minister’s quid pro quo for Alex Salmond’s agreement to ditch the second ‘Devo-Max’ question on the ballot paper: ie, the referendum is to pose only a straightforward in/out question.
The Prime Minister has no right to barter with the Constitution in this fashion: it is too important a settlement to use for short-term political expediency. Those who are insisting that no precedent will be set by lowering the voting age in this referendum clearly have no understanding of the word ‘precedent: the groups that campaign for lowering the voting age permanently are in no doubt at all that a clear precedent would indeed be set.
It's barking. Absolutely barking.
If 16-year-olds are to be trusted with what they want to do to the body politic of the Union, at least give them the power to decide what they might do to their own bodies first.
*Except in Scotland