Seven Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament have resigned this week amidst claims of bullying and suppressed debate, with more having resigned without going public.
A number of young politicians have left their posts after accusations that the youth-rights based organisation was not doing enough to ensure that their members’ voices were being heard.
Kelly Given, 19, Robbie Nicoll, 18, and Marc Winsland, 20, are amongst those who have confirmed they are stepping down.
In an interview with The Courier, the former Scottish Youth Parliament Vice Chairman Ewan McCall spoke of a “toxic atmosphere” and “heavy tribalism” where, “views are trapped, debate stifled and opinions constricted by a web of policy to which we must conform or be disciplined.”
He continued, “we often call ourselves the democratically elected voice of Scotland’s young people, but not all young people speak with one voice. If there’s a 51 per cent vote in favour of a certain policy, for example, the other 49 per cent are not allowed to indicate they were against it if speaking in public later. If they do they are disciplined. That’s quite wrong and is no way for us to present the future of politics in Scotland.”
In a statement released on her Facebook page, Kirsty McCalhill, former MSYP for Ayr said she felt, “lost within the boundaries of an organisation which […] did not adhere to the basic principles of its mission statement, and did not pay enough regard to the wants, need, and wellbeing of its members.”
Another member, Kelly Given, spoke out for the need for internal reform and less harsh disciplinary procedures in order to maintain the effectiveness of the platform.
Also speaking to The Courier, Robbie Nicoll, cited sexism as his reason for resigning as MSYP for Angus North and the Mearns stating: “I don’t think there’s a culture of bullying, as has been suggested elsewhere, but I did express concern about the way some men spoke about women.
“I offered to reword my comments but felt I had no option other than to resign after being asked to withdraw my statement completely.”
Marc Winsland MSYP for Dundee West, said he believes in the “power and the potential of the collective voice of Scotland’s young people” but resigned due to overbearing bureaucracy.
“These failings are driven in large part by a small cluster of members who were placed in decision-making positions and then proceeded to discredit these positions by eschewing many of the undertakings they were chosen to pursue,” he told The Courier.
“The word for that is not democratic. It is disappointing. An organisation cannot claim to be the ‘democratic voice of Scotland’s young people’ when so many of their internal practices lack even the most basic impression of decency and fairness. Accountability is almost non-existent and morale is grindingly low.
“The so-called disciplinary culture is as strong as the membership’s spirits are weak.”
The youth parliament was established in 1999 and aims to provide a voice to Scotland’s youth. 140 elected members, aged 14 to 25, represent all 32 of Scotland’s local authority areas as well as several national voluntary organisations.
The organisation is non-political and bases its principles on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that states that young people have the right to be heard and represented democratically.
Speaking to The Courier, West Scotland MSP Ross Greer, a former youth parliamentarian who is the youngest ever member at Holyrood defended the organisation saying he is “incredibly proud of the organisation” and its achievements.
He continued: “I’m sure the Scottish Youth Parliament will be taking these events seriously and make any necessary changes to ensure MSYPs feel like their voice is being heard within the organisation.”
Image: Dun Deagh