Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Sunday 15 June 2008

Confused and confusing policies on age of majority from Scottish Executive

The SNP Scottish Executive (aka 'Government') seems to me to be putting forward a whole range of confused proposals concerning theage at which people may or may not do certain things. Its stated aim is to reduce the confusion that youngsters may justifiably experience with current rules (i.e. a voting age of 18 with some other rights granted at a lower age, for example the age of consent, the right to marry or the right to serve in the army). It seems to me however that the most important civic right we have is the right to vote. It may be justified to grant certain 'lesser' rights at a lower age, but once one has attained the age when one may vote then all other rights available generally to citizens should be granted, otherwise one would end up having different classes of voters.

However, recent announcements from the SNP Scottish Executive (aka 'Government') will end up creating just such anomalies:

- suggestions to lower the voting age to 16; it needs to be granted authority by Westminster to do this and is proposing interim changes to 'test the water';

- the Scottish Parliament has just passed legislation to ban those under 18 from using sun-beds; this is consistent with the current voting age, but if the voting age were reduced to 16 would, I suspect, be open to legal challenge;

- the Scottish Executive (aka 'Government' wishes to raise the age at which people may buy alcohol in supermarkets and off-licences from 18 to 21, although there are no proposals to amend the age at which alcohol may be consumed in venues such as pubs, clubs or restaurants.

I think this is a hotchpotch of confused ideas masquerading as rational policy with, for the SNP, the added benefit of contriving yet another area of dissent with Labour and the Westminster government. There may well be a case for looking at all three issues detailed above, but if the policies which result are to be credible then a great deal more thought must go into them to ensure they are consistent and likely to withstand legal challenge. I think what they show currently is that the SNP is merely indulging in soundbite populist politics.

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