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Cut the jargon, child lawmakers are told

GENUINE consultation with young people has to be fun and jargon-free. They are not aliens and like honest, straight-talking adults who are interested in what they think, Children in Scotland has advised MSPs.

Asking children and young people what they think of the draft improvement in the Scottish education Bill is unlikely to elicit a lively response, but asking what they like about school does get them talking, the children's organisation says.

Fiona McLeod, the SNP member who has been leading an inquiry into consulting young people on Holyrood legislation, this week absorbed the message and urged the Parliament to find new ways of seeking young people's views, not only on education.

The Scottish Executive has accepted United Nations charters on consulting children but the evidence so far "does not paint a consistent pcture", Ms McLeod told the education, culture and sport committee on Tuesday.

She conceded: "We are at the very beginning of taking children's views seriously. There are countries elsewhere that have gone down this road five to 10 years before." It was perfectly feasible for legislators to consult young people about issues in their lives and to give their views equal weight, although the procedures involved would be different.

Ian Jenkins, a Liberal Democrat, said the change of heart might appear as "window-dressing" but there was enough evidence and good practice to build on. "I think we have done the Parliament a service by pushing this."

Ms McLeod said that one million people under the age of 18 had a right to be heard and the days when children should be seen and not heard had to be put firmly in the past.

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