Thursday, 12 January 2012

Votes for 16-year-olds not Salmond's real agenda

One ear, my only ear, on the Holyrood debate on the referendum. Patrick Harvie, the Green MSP has just made a thoughtful speech, and Sarah Boyack is showing some passion.

It seems to be a good, and good-natured debate, although people tell me I missed a cracking contribution by Scottish Labour's Kezia Dugdale, the Shadow Youth Employment Minister.

I've always thought that the votes for for 16 and 17 year olds is as much of a red herring as the Bannockburn anniversary. It smacks too much of rigging the vote to be a red line issue for the SNP.

The point is not to actually enfranchise teenagers for the referendum, though that would probably assist the SNP cause to some degree.

The reason the party bangs on about the issue is to engage young people now so that when the referendum comes, and they are over 18, they will be more inclined to cast their first vote for the SNP.

It's the kind of inch by inch leverage of the independence vote that the SNP is engaged in every day, and there's no reason to think that work would cease on the wrong side of an independence vote in 20-whenever.

Salmond, I assume, will concede the teenage voting issue, as he always intended, to appear as if he his compromising in the wrestle with London. As one contrary wag put it to me the logic of arguing that teenagers ought to get a vote on their future extends to denying the over 80s the franchise because they have no future.

As his old friend Jim Sillars put it on Sunday, Alex Salmond is on very strong political ground but his legal standing is weak. There is going to have to be a great deal of compromise.

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