Concerns unveiled at Young People's Day in Parliament

26th August 2011 at 01:00
`Ginger David Dimbleby' leads under-25 debate on jobs, student finance and LGBT issues

It must be the first time that a self-styled "ginger David Dimbleby" has led a parliamentary debate in which one of the speakers wore a bridal veil.

But while some of the styles were colourful, discussions were serious at the Scottish Parliament's Young People's Day last weekend.

More than 150 under-25s from across Scotland sat in the debating chamber to talk about student finance, jobs and apprenticeships, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.

John Loughton, the reality TV show Big Brother competition winner and former chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP), dubbed himself the "ginger David Dimbleby" as he opened the debate with a rebuke over the negative portrayal of the younger generation.

"We have seen a lot about riots, a lot of negative stereotypes of young people in the media and we know that's not all true," he said.

The first topic in the debate, on financial concerns, brought out strong opinions about the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

Gina Clark, 24, SYP member for Midlothian, who was wearing a veil to promote the SYP Love Equally campaign on marriage equality, said: "They means-tested each of my parents . (but) when I went to college my dad was on the dole. The year before (when he was means-tested) he had quite a well-paid job. It does not work."

Others were angry about young people receiving EMAs regardless of whether they attended school.

A vote on whether to scrap the EMA for all but the poorest students, provide it for all students, or retain its current form, but with better enforcement of existing rules, led to majority support for the last option.

The next topic on apprenticeships and long-term employment support was also hotly debated.

Laura McLachlan, 21, a member of SYP and LGBT Youth Scotland, said: "My brother has had two apprenticeships and lost them again because the companies can't afford to keep him on. He's got all the experience but does not have a job. We don't have the economy to get a job. I have all these qualifications and experience too and I still can't get a job."

Glen Hodgkinson, 18, a member of the National Deaf Children's Society, said: "I feel there should be more practical-based courses. It's very academic today."

However, the floor voted in favour of more job creation and better support for graduates, rather than an increase in apprenticeships and work experience.

The final debate saw delegates clashing over whether Catholic schools should educate pupils about LGBT issues.

Some pupils at denominational schools said these issues were already covered, while others claimed they either weren't or couldn't be.

A narrow majority voted in favour of mandatory LGBT education in all schools, rather than giving schools the choice.

The "Get the Picture!" debate on Saturday was part of the Parliament's annual Festival of Politics.

scoted@tes.co.uk.

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