Like many, if not most, Lib Dems I strongly support the lowering of the voting age to 16. The arguments for doing so are many and powerful, and hardly need to be repeated here. Suffice to say, I cannot understand how it is justifiable to allow 16 and 17 year olds to marry, drive, join the army and pay taxes, yet deny them any say on how the country is governed.
So you might have expected me to be overjoyed by the news that the voting age for the Scottish independence referendum will indeed be 16. But I’m not. It’s not that I’ve had a sudden change of heart, or that I think Scottish 16 and 17 year olds shouldn’t be able to participate in such a historic vote. My problem lies with the means of achieving it. If we want to change the voting age we should do it properly; making a case for it in public and changing the law, not by some grubby backroom deal between the SNP and the UK government.
Besides, what is the point of having votes at 16 in a single poll (and one that will include such a small percentage of the UK’s population at that)? The only case I have seen put forward, that the independence referendum will have especially important consequences for future generations, is little short of laughable. What referendum, or indeed election, isn’t about the future? Wasn’t the AV referendum about just that? What about a future referendum on EU membership? It is frankly nonsensical to suggest that this pick and mix approach to the voting age is real progress, rather than mere political chicanery.
If we want change we should get it properly, not by succumbing to Alex Salmond’s intrigues.