Mackie Academy and Portlethen Academy were at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference this past week at the AECC in Aberdeen.
Schools across the Shire and City were invited to sample a party political conference to see how democracy works and how policies are made sitting in on debates on gender equality in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and how to engage young people in the political process.
The schools were welcomed by Shelia Thomson, Convener of the Conference Committee, before Councillor Martin Greig, Alison McInnes MSP and Sir Robert Smith MP, the MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, introduced themselves and took questions from the pupils on their roles and more widely on issues such as tuition fees and the lack of political interest exhibited by many youths.
Alison McInnes MSP commented: “What depresses me is when young women answer the door to me with their baby in their arms and tell me they are not interested in politics”
The whole day had the similar theme of young people in politics with Daniel O’Malley, Scottish Liberal Youth Vice President of Communications and politics student, and Sarah Atherton, the Scottish Liberal Democrats Head of Policy & Research, speaking on careers in politics.
Daniel O’Malley when asked whether he was at all disadvantaged by his youth replied that “young people are very much welcomed for their new and fresh take on things.” Miss Atherton jokingly blamed her initial participation in politics on “watching too much of The West Wing.”
Pupils were then given the chance to go round the exhibition stands at the conference featuring organisations such as Unison, Liberal Youth Scotland and Shelter.
A stronger economy through gender equality in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) was the first policy motion that the pupils sat through in which various speakers gave their views on the subject with many novel ideas given including a suggestion to a return to single-sex schools.
The schools along with a large number of Liberal Democrat delegates were then given the chance to meet prospective parliament candidates such as Kate Stephen and Christine Jardine, who will stand for the Gordon seat following MP Malcolm Bruce’s stepping down in 2015.
The pupils also got to hear Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg speech in the afternoon and were offered a private Q&A session, with Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP and the Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael MP.
Mr Carmichael spoke candidly on many issues including the future of the Liberal Democrats and their prospects for the 2015 general election.
One enthused Mackie pupil, Gregor Ironside, remarked after the event: ‘It’s vital for students to be engaged with politics. Something I wholeheartedly commend the Lib Dems in doing.
“What’s fantastic is that we are seeing a shift to recognising that 16 and 17 year olds do have a say in the future of our country and should be listened to.”