Teenagers Catherine Hannah, 15, and Kaylee Mouat, 16, have been elected to represent Shetland in the Scottish Youth Parliament for the next two years.
The pair will replace outgoing members Nicole Mouat, who is Kaylee’s older sister, and Emily Shaw. Fourth year Sandwick pupil Catherine topped the poll, finishing with 317 votes after six rounds of counting, while Kaylee attracted 296 votes, pipping third-placed Samuel McCormack by 37 votes.
Anyone between the age of 12 and 26 is eligible to participate in the biennial election, which is counted using the single transferable vote method. Eight candidates stood for election and an impressive 888 voters took part, 30 of whom spoiled their ballots.
Catherine and Kaylee will formally take up their seats in three months’ time and will represent Shetland until June 2015. Both said they were “just hoping to be able to live up to” the example set by Emily and Nicole in the past two years.
“It’s just amazing,” said a delighted Kaylee, who is in fifth year at the AHS. “I’ve been part of youth voice for four or five years. I want to try to raise awareness among young folk of the importance of what they have to say – if they have a strong feeling about something they should go out and say it.”
In her manifesto, Catherine vowed to fight to keep transport in Shetland at a high standard and spoke of the importance of boosting employment opportunities for young people and maintaining the islands’ youth clubs.
Shetland returning officer Jan Riise said the online election “underlined the significance of a democratic voice for the youth vote in Shetland”.
Mr Riise said: “With an increased turnout and increased number of candidates there was real proof of the young Shetland voter’s appetite to engage in local and national politics.
“I wish Catherine and Kaylee well in representing the youth of Shetland in the forthcoming years and hope we can work together on some issues of common interest to Shetland.”
Mr Riise said young people would have another opportunity to demonstrate that voting matters in next year’s referendum on Scottish independence. The SNP is legislating to allow 16-18 year olds to participate in the vote.
Taking a break from hogging the political headlines nationally, Shetland MSP Tavish Scott offered his congratulations to the new members.
“I’d also like to say thank you very much to Emily Shaw and to Nicole Mouat for their years of outstanding service to Shetland, both here within the islands but also as ambassadors for Shetland,” he said. “If our new members, Catherine and Kaylee, can be as effective as their predecessors they’ll do very, very well.”
Youth services election co-ordinator Martin Summers said there had been a 50 per cent increase in the number of candidates standing. He hopes young people’s interest will carry through to the 2014 referendum, and said the youth parliament would continue to campaign for the voting age to be lowered to 16 in all elections.