Legal to Wed MP but Not to Vote; Sixteen Is a Major Milestone in Life; You Can Leave School, Play the Lottery and Even Start a Family. but You Can't Vote. NICOLA WEATHERALL Asks North East Teenagers If It's about Time the Voting Age Was Reduced from 18

Article excerpt

Byline: NICOLA WEATHERALL

W HETHER 16-year-olds should be allowed to vote has been one of the many controversial issues sparked by the Scottish referendum planned for 2014.

Alex Salmond, Scottish National Party leader, wants 16 and 17 year-olds to be allowed to have their say on whether Scotland should become independent.

Prime Minister David Cameron has agreed to give the Scottish parliament the power to include some of those teenagers in the referendum.

However, the Government's decision has alarmed some Conservatives, who are concerned that it will set a precedent that will force changes elsewhere in the UK.

But would changing the voting age in British elections to 16 be such a bad idea? We asked students from Durham School and Emmanuel College, in Gateshead, if they think they should be allowed to vote.

In a lively debate, we also got their wider views on politics, including what they think MPs should do to appeal to younger votersand Continued the policies they want to see focussed on.

Georgia Foulkes-Hartley,16, of Durham: "Not all 16-year-olds even have the opportunity to learn about politics as it is not compulsory and part of every student's curriculum. If you do then it makes you more aware, but I still feel I haven't enough knowledge to vote. "We have had political debates on Twitter on issues such as whether we should get rid of life peerages and on Scottish independence. We also made a film on constitutional reform. "One of the issues is that the media paints politicians in a poor light; they are always surrounded by scandal. The tools are there to make politics more accessible to young people. New technology allows for e-petitions, an online forum, political debate on Twitter, but MPs need to adapt. "A policy the Government should concentrate on is immigration. It has a massive impact on employment at a time when jobs are difficult to come by. "At the same time they shouldn't be sitting around at the taxpayer's expense. But rather than policies, I think the future lies with personalities. "Look at US President Barack Obama. He is a great orator, he relates to people and his charisma draws supporters in. In this country it is Boris Johnson as he boosts morale." Jack Collier, 17, of Gateshead: "At 16 you can marry your MP, you can work for your MP and you can be tried for a crime against your MP. If we are trusted by our own nation to do these, then why can't we vote for them? "As a young person, I find that many decisions made in government have a direct effect on me, from rising tuition fees to NHS reforms. Their actions have major repercussions on my life; I can't ignore that. "Young people, especially in the North, are often alienated by our political structure. With MPs spending the majority of their time at Westminster, often little time and consideration is given by them to reaching out to young people who do want to learn more. "The Government should concentrate on foreign policy. We have a responsibility for the world where unacceptable suffering takes place. These issues put ours into perspective." Matthew Whaley, 17, of Durham: "At 18 people are definitely more mature and independent-minded. It is quite a big step in your development in those two years. They might be still living at home or could be living on their own. I can't see a need for the vote at 16 and don't feel the urge to vote. "I'm more than happy to finish my education first. We are starting to become more aware of becoming more adult and our parents and teachers are becoming more hands-off, so we become more independent. "I read Time magazine which is funny and interesting. It gives politics a different spin outside the traditional text book. "I'm interested in politics, but the scary thing is that behind MPs there is a layer of civil servants with a lot of power and no electoral mandate to use it. …