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Issues aren't a wet blanket

The Blue Blanket was a pub in Edinburgh's Canongate, celebrating olden times when such a blanket, hung from windows or carried as a banner, encouraged the townspeople to the streets in protest at some outrageous action by the city fathers or Scottish parliament.

Careful scrutiny of what then stood for the political process would bring them out at the drop of a blanket whenever a slur on the common man, real or perceived, was spotted.

So, when listening to a Radio Scotland "vox pop" from the Royal Mile on the day the election was called, it was kind of sad to hear the predictable reaction from a latter-day Edinburgher: "I'll be ignoring it. I just don't get involved with all that nonsense."

Perhaps such a response is inevitable, given the media-led attacks on politicians and their systems over the past decade or so. To an observer, it seems that the line between legitimate scrutiny and rabble-rousing negativism has long ago been crossed in some sections of the press.

Certainly, one would tend to believe that we get the politicians we deserve and, if we treat them with cynicism and disdain, we cannot be too surprised if their reaction is less than positive and inspiring.

As one of the national priorities reflects, we have a duty to promote a positive view of politics and citizenship among our pupils. Voting trends suggest the young are being turned off party politics. Yet, in my own school, I see positive attitudes towards grass-roots politics in terms of citizenship awards, the Scottish Youth Parliament and pupil council activities; and this is reflected across the country.

Young people still retain the idealism that many of us dimly remember from the 1960s; it is ironic that this is often doused by the cold water of disillusionment issuing forth from their elders who should know better.

Recent references to the meeting of young people with Pope John Paul II at Murrayfield Stadium evoke memories of an enthralling event, with a teenage crowd cheering wildly when being exhorted to lead a righteous and sin free life! However, one point made by the Pontiff to his enthusiastic audience holds resonance still. He remarked that young people all had important choices to make about their futures - and they should make those choices with regard not just to themselves but also to others.

In our schools, we need to be promoting the importance of young people becoming involved in the political process - whoever they support and however they take action. One thing needs to be said to 21st century man in the Royal Mile: if you ignore politicians, they won't go away; they'll just set their own agenda, and the people deserve better.

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