Politically aware pupils

Buckhaven and Kirkland High School pupils meet with Devolution (Further Powers) Committee convener Bruce Crawford (picture by Andrew Cowan/Scottish Government)
Buckhaven and Kirkland High School pupils meet with Devolution (Further Powers) Committee convener Bruce Crawford (picture by Andrew Cowan/Scottish Government)

Social media got the vote from Levenmouth’s young secondary school pupils on the day the Scottish Parliament came to town.

Pupils aged 16 and 17 from Kirkland and Buckhaven High Schools reckoned Facebook was probably the best way of involving themselves in the political process, after they had the right to vote for the first time in September’s Referendum on Scottish independence.

The local teenagers were giving feedback to members of the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee, who visited Buckhaven as part of the Holyrood Parliament Day initiative.

These sessions – introduced in 2012 by Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick MSP, who was on Parliamentary business in Methilhill the same day – aim to take the Parliament out of Edinburgh and into communities around Scotland, inspiring local people to take an interest in and engage directly with the Parliament’s work.

Pupils told committee members how they felt about having a vote, where they got their information from and their views on their general involvement in the democratic process.

They found the visit a useful exercise, according to Buckhaven High head teacher Grant Whytock, who organised the occasion along with depute head Claire McLeod.

Social media, rather than leaflet drops, or newspapers or television, had probably been the most effective method of keeping them involved in the process and up to speed with information, with Facebook working better than Twitter.

The 17-year-olds were, in general, more engaged in the debate than the 16-year-olds, added Mr Whytock.

The school itself had also encouraged engagement in the process by hosting an independence debate, featuring Lindsay Roy MP and David Torrance MSP, and others, while a busload of 50 people travelled from Levenmouth to Glasgow for one of the televised debates.

“We had supported information gathering while retaining neutrality,” said Mr Whytock.

Committee convener Bruce Crawford MSP said: “We wanted committee members to hear from local people about their experiences and their hopes. We saw a historic voter turnout at the referendum and we’re determined to ensure young people continue to be engaged with Scottish political debates.

“The views of the young people in Levenmouth will make an important contribution to our efforts to learn lessons and engage with young people on a long-term basis.”