5th May 2016

Scotland gives 16-year-olds the vote

Scotland was ahead of the rest of the UK when, in the Scottish parliament election of 2016, it extended the right to vote to 16- and 17-year-olds. The change in the voting age had been made possible by the passing of the Scottish Elections (Reduction of Voting Age) Act 2015, which gained Royal Assent on 24 July 2015.

A vote on the vote

The vote to reduce the minimum age for casting a ballot had been passed unanimously in June 2015, one year after 16- and 17-year-olds had been allowed to cast a vote in the 2014 referendum on Scottish Independence. That age range had not been allowed to vote in the referendum on continued membership of the European Union, which had been managed on a UK-wide basis. In that instance, Scotland had expressed a clear preference for retaining membership, although a slim majority had voted for independence in the United Kingdom as a whole, leading to Scotland’s eventual forced withdrawal in 2020.

Strengthening Scottish devolution

The proposal to reduce the voting age had been included in the recommendations coming out of the Smith Commission, led by Lord Smith, that considered ways to strengthen Scottish devolution. It also recommended the Scottish Parliament should have the ability to set its own rates of income tax and to retain revenues raised by the tax, be given greater oversight of healthcare, and have a role in negotiations over the renewal of the BBC Charter, among other things.

The 2016 election was also notable for being the first in which each of the three largest parties were led by women: Nicola Sturgeon for the SNP, Kezia Dugdale for Labour and Ruth Davidson for the Conservatives. With 63 seats, the SNP retained its position as the largest party in the Scottish Parliament. Labour won 24 and the conservatives 31. The remaining eleven seats were split between the Scottish Greens, with six, and the Liberal Democrats, with five.



Other events that occured in May

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