Young people “elected” to Community Councils

ABERDEENSHIRE Council is running a project which will see young people elected by their peers, with a view to them becoming members of their local community councils.

It is aimed at increasing involvement by young people in what happens in their local communities, giving them access to a forum in which to give their views on issues.

The pilot has been agreed with two community councils local to Ellon Academy.

It means young people elected by schoolmates who live in the same area will be co-opted for a year as members of the community council where they live.

In addition, some pupils at both Ellon and Meldrum academies will gain a seat automatically, having stood unnopposed.

The elections will be run authentically by the council’s Electoral Participation Sub Group, previously responsible for a series of elections in the area’s schools.

Ballot papers have been specially printed with the names of the candidates, and electoral registers created. Ballot boxes and polling booths from real elections will also be used.

At Ellon Academy, 560 pupils will be eligible to vote for candidates seeking seats on Ellon Community Council, with another 123 having a vote in the election to find a new member of Foveran Community Council.

Four pupils will stand for two co-opted places on Ellon Community Council – Ross Purdie, 17, Brittany Langley, 17, Natasha Haggart, 17, and Aqib Pervaiz, 16.

Daniel Hook, 16, and Brian Simpson, also 16, will contest a single seat on Foveran Community Council.

Alex Stewart is automatically co-opted onto Slains and Collieston Community Council and Andrew McMenemie from Meldrum Academy on to Udny Community Council, both having been returned unopposed in their election contests.

Meldrum Academy fifth year Harris Simpson, from Rothienorman, will become a member of Fyvie, Rothienorman and Monqhitter Community Council, having stood unnopposed.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Chief Executive and Returning Officer for elections, Colin Mackenzie, said: “We think this is the first election of its kind, aimed at increasing young people’s involvement in the local democratic process.

“Community councils have an important role, representing the views of those who live and work locally, and young people are part of those communties too.

“As well as representing other young people in their community, the pupils are also getting a taste of how elections work and an insight into how they can get involved.”

Elections coordinator and Depute Returning Officer, Allan Bell, said: “Our aim is to continue to raise awareness among young people of the importance of voting and engaging in democracy.

“One way of doing this is to encourage levels of youth participation and representation on community councils.

“Through a project like this, we hope to extend the involvement of young people on community councils across Aberdeenshire and to increase understanding of the importance of the work of community councils.”

The Grampian Electoral Registration Officer, Ian Milton, said: “We are busy adapting our registration system to cater for under-18s voting in the national referendum next year and this type of project, focussing on community councils which are the local component of our system of democracy, is an ideal opportunity to give young people real-world citizenship training.”

The elections to community councils local to Ellon will take place at Ellon Academy on Wednesday, June 19. The results will be announced on June 21.