Why you should care about votes

Thursday 5th May.

Does this date ring any bells? Perhaps you have an exam that day? Maybe you’re going on holiday ... got a hair appointment booked?

Thursday 5th of May is the date of two significant political events. Concerning you. Yes, you.

In terms of the UK as a whole, it is the date of the referendum on the Alternative Vote system. This is a vital opportunity to get involved in upholding democracy. Why should you care about that? Simply because it enables you to have a say in the running of the country. Another chance to make sure that our opinions as people of the UK are heard. If you vote in the referendum, you can contribute to shaping the future of British Politics. The issue of election systems may seem dull, irrelevant to every aspect of life outside your Modern Studies classroom. However, it would be foolish to be so small-minded about the subject.

Voting systems play a considerable role in determining who runs the country and therefore, young people should not ignore the referendum.

Do you resent the coalition cuts? Wish you could do something about it? Or maybe you feel it’s time smaller parties like the Greens had a bigger say.

The choice of voting system may not change government but it can impact how your future votes translate into parliamentary representation.

This is your chance to make your voice heard; are you happy with the current First Past the Post system which simply requires an ‘X’ next to the chosen candidate’s name? Or would you rather elect your representative via the Alternative Vote system, where candidates are ranked in order of preference.

Perhaps the event closest to home is of course, the Scottish Parliament’s General Election. It will involve a showdown between Scotland’s five main parties; the SNP, Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats and the Greens. Currently, our parliament is run by the SNP, who have a majority of one seat. Will they manage to emerge victorious, with a greater margin of success, or will another party overtake their narrow majority?

Does anyone really care? You should. The Scottish Government may not seem as widely-broadcast or exciting as what goes on at Westminster. Nonetheless, our representatives at Holyrood have a variety of powers including the ability to abolish or create tuition fees and EMA benefits, as well as laying a ban on smoking in public places or creating minimum alcohol pricing. All issues which directly affect young people.

I personally would have seriously reconsidered applying for university if the Scottish Government did not pay my tuition fees. Like many people, I simply wouldn’t have been able to afford it. It’s important you do your research. Watching the live leaders’ TV debates is a good opportunity. Find out what policies each of the parties stand for. Do they want Scotland to be independent? What are they pledging to do about the economy? Are they hoping to improve education services?

So even if you’re too young to vote, you can always persuade your older family and friends to make an effort. There’s nothing stopping you distributing a few leaflets and most parties allow young people to join via their websites. The more people that vote, the stronger Scotland’s democracy. It’s time more people had a say.