Delivering for Young People


Posted by in July's Magazine

This summer I’ll be 33 and, as I go for celebratory drinks with friends, it’ll be another moment of recognition that the days of calling myself a young person are increasingly behind me. And like all of us getting used to getting older, I’m ever more mindful, as an individual and even more so as a politician, about doing all I can to help younger and future generations to realise their potential and pursue their ambitions. For me, that should always be the primary focus of our politics and a determination that unites us all.

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As MSP for Edinburgh Northern and Leith I’m always thinking about how to deliver for young people in the area I represent, and how I can assist the remarkable youth organisations in the constituency. From Willy and his team at the Citadel Youth Centre to Sam and her team at The Junction; from the YMCA, Leith Athletic, Pilmeny Youth Centre and WorkingRite to LGBT Youth Scotland, Spartans and all of our local schools: there are so many superb initiatives in our community doing exceptional work to support young people. In uncertain times like the ones we’re living through now, we can all work to empower younger generations.

Whether it’s supporting fundraising campaigns, like the recent very well attended gig for the Citadel, to lobbying government; whether it’s taking time out to volunteer, mentoring the next generation or providing opportunities for young people in our workplaces: as adults we can all play a part in shaping a better future for those growing up around us. We can help them build a better Leith and a better Scotland. And that’s why, as a local representative, not only do I proactively work to support local organisations but I also regularly host young people for work experience in my office… Just like I did work experience with my predecessor Malcolm Chisholm many years ago.

Whenever I visit a local school or catch up with a local youth organisation, I’m always acutely aware that youngsters today are growing up in a political and social environment that’s quite different from my own. Not only are young people under increasing pressure to achieve academically and conform to social norms, surrounding both appearance and behaviour, but they are also living through what must seem to them like perpetual austerity. My worry is that, without prominent alternative visions and lively political discourse in their social circles, a whole generation could grow up to believe that conservative cuts are an economic requirement, rather than a political choice (which is what they are). I’m mindful that we need to keep reminding younger generations that a different sort of country is possible – one where we share more, invest in each other more and seek to cooperate more, as well as compete. A society where there is more optimism than cynicism, and more hope than fear.

In the Scottish Parliament, as a member of the Social Security Committee, we are currently looking at a Child Poverty Bill to set targets for reducing deprivation. The Scottish Government is also taking measures to increase equal access to higher education (as well as keeping education free for all), tackle the attainment gap between rich and poor in our schools and further increase the number of apprenticeships available. All of this will help make Scotland both fairer and more successful. And in the face of more Tory cuts to welfare spending and to Scotland’s budget, what my MSP colleagues and I do in the Scottish Parliament to help our young people is ever more important.

The media focuses too often on the negative and that is also the case with young people. We hear more about the few young people engaging in vandalism and crime than we do about the majority working hard at school, making a difference in their community and supporting those around them.

But bit-by-bit we can change the focus. Recently I attended the Young Scot awards, an excellent event celebrating a whole range of remarkable young people and recognising a wide range of abilities from sporting achievements to academic success. Locally I attended the Evening News Edinburgh Awards where Leith Academy and Leith Athletic were both shortlisted as finalists for their work with young people. Such occasions shine a spotlight on the achievements of young people, but there is more for us all to do to make sure it’s their positive contributions that are most emphasised and proactively celebrated.

The recent terrorist attacks…
in Manchester and London were heartbreaking and terrifying in their ferocity and brutality. The evil and tragedy shocked us all in equal measure. In Manchester, what was most callous and horrific was that it was an attack on young people who now have to grow up in an environment of fear, and that is very worrying. But as well as reassuring them and doing all we can to tackle terrorism, let us also encourage those around us not to give in to cynicism; and instead to play their part in building the better world that the majority of young people passionately believe in. A society that is more equal and just, where the diversity and multi-culturalism that is normal to young people is strengthened not weakened. A society where generosity is valued more than greed, aggression denounced, discrimination deplored. In Leith, as always, persevere.

MSP for the Edinburgh North and Leith 

Twitter: @BenMacpherson

One response to “Delivering for Young People”

  1. Yooying says:

    It's great to find the post. Thank you very much.

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