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Ronan MacPhee, 18, from Benbecula is running for election to the Scottish Youth Parliament

Young people all over Scotland can influence decision-making through the Scottish Youth Parliament. Members, elected to represent constituencies, run regular campaigns, which have recently focussed on themes such as mental health and climate change, and are involved in consultations with numerous organisations including the Scottish Government.

Ronan, who is running to represent the Western Isles, said: “I want to see a change in our community and to help young people express their views. I would like to help young people who use British Sign Language or Makaton to speak up and share their opinions. I remember when I was younger I felt scared to speak up and I hope that I can be a voice for anyone who feels that way.”

Ronan has based his campaign on coastal erosion and the environment, equality and human rights and justice.

As he currently volunteers for seven different organisations across Uist, Ronan is taking his experiences from that into his campaign.

“My biggest concern for the environment has been coastal erosion on our islands. I have been campaigning on the issue since S2 in high school. I joined the climate action group for the Western Isles and my main focus is to create awareness for this issue, not just here where we live but on the mainland so that they know what we are facing here.”

He added: “I volunteer on a climate change group for the Western Isles, a COP26 co-design group, Uist local energy plan, I run holiday clubs, help in the foodbank and the befriending service as well as working in the Tagsa community gardens.”

Ronan helps out as a relief worker at local primary and nursery schools while also being the host of a new food initiative, Neighbour Food.

He concluded: “We have to make them, the Scottish Government, hear us. We can’t make the changes but we can show them that we have a voice and we need them to help us.”

Voting for the election is now live until February 28th 2022, and you can vote via the Young Scot website if you are aged 14-25.

Samantha Jordan is the new member of the Scottish Youth Parliament representing the Western Isles

Abigail Taylor

Young people all over Scotland can influence decision-making through the Scottish Youth Parliament. Members, elected to represent constituencies, run regular campaigns, which have recently focussed on themes such as mental health and climate change, and are involved in consultations with numerous organisations including the Scottish Government.

Samantha Jordan, a senior student at Sgoil Lionacleit, has been elected to represent the Western Isles. She will take up her position in March and represent the islands until 2024.

“It covers a lot of bases such as education, employment and the environment,” said Samantha of her new role as MSYP.

“Each member has their own constituency to consult young people and be the voice for them, no matter how big or small the issue.

“I focused my campaign on the environment and climate change, because this area is so heavily impacted. I am in a lot of climate change groups and hope this role will help me raise awareness for the issue and let people know that just because we are young, does not mean we don’t have to worry.

“I want people to know that I am here to listen to whatever their concerns are and I am happy to bring that with me throughout my term in the Scottish Youth Parliament.”

Samantha got the idea to run for election from former MSYP chair, Josh Kennedy, last year when she attended the state opening of the Scottish Parliament.

“I am part of a co-climate design group for climate change and there was an opportunity to go to the opening of the Scottish Parliament,” explained Samantha.

“I was lucky enough to go and met the former chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament, Josh, and deputy chair, Liam, who both spoke so highly of the experience. I got home, started researching, put my name forward and from there it has all taken off. I have always wanted to make a difference and this is a way to do that.

“We get the opportunity to join committees on the issues we feel passionate about in order to represent our constituencies. We even get the chance to take them to the Scottish Parliament. I am so excited to get to parliament and see it in action!”

Five candidates have put themselves forward to represent Na h-Eileanan an Iar.

ALLAN Alasdair James – Scottish National Party (SNP)

BERKENHEGER Gavin – The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

FRASER Shaun Alexander – Scottish Labour Party

MACMILLAN Callum Ian

MITCHISON Neil – Scottish Liberal Democrats

The poll will be held on Thursday 6th May 2021 between 7am and 10pm.

Electors in the Western Isles who plan to vote by post in the Scottish Parliament Election on Thursday 6 May 2021 are encouraged to register as soon as possible by filling in the postal application form and sending it to the Electoral Registration Officer.

Abigail Taylor

Malcolm Burr, Returning Officer, said: “Everyone is entitled to vote by post. You can apply for a postal vote for one election, for a set time or for this and all future Elections.

To apply for a postal vote you should contact the Electoral Registration Officer on 01851 706262 or you can download a Postal Vote Application Form. For the Scottish Parliament Election, there is a deadline to apply for a postal or postal proxy vote: 5.00pm on Tuesday 6th April 2021.”

Voting by post means that any ballot papers you require will be sent to your chosen address around 5-14 days before the election. Your postal pack must be returned by the close of poll, 10pm on Thursday 6th May 2021.

Mr Burr said: “Your postal pack will contain ballot papers, instruction on how to complete your Ballot Paper(s) and a Postal Voting Statement which requires your signature and date of birth (unless you have applied for and been granted a signature waver). The completed Postal Voting Statement must be returned with your ballot paper(s) for your vote to be valid.”

Postal packs can also be returned to any Polling Station within the constituency.

The deadline to register to vote is Monday 19th April 2021.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced changes to the current level four coronavirus restrictions. 

Abigail Taylor

Nicola Sturgeon addressed parliament on Tuesday 9th March 2021, explaining that up to four adults from two households will be able to meet locally in any outdoor space, including in private gardens, for social and recreational purposes as well as exercise from Friday 12th March 2021.

Changes were also made to outdoor sports, meaning that up to 15 adults can take part in outdoor non contact activity.

The First Minister acknowledged the speed of the vaccine rollout and that ‘the vaccination programme is progressing beyond our initial expectations’.  

It is believed that should progress suppressing the virus continue, the Scottish Government intends to reopen places of worship with attendance limits increased from 20 to 50 where there is space for social distancing on Friday 26th March 2021. 

Following backlash for Scotland’s roadmap out of the pandemic being too slow, this announcement will be the first set of rules to be reduced.

The First Minister explained: “I expect that further, more substantial changes will be possible in the weeks ahead, and I will set out as much detail as I can about that in Parliament next week. If the data allows us to relax more restrictions more quickly than we have previously indicated, we will not hesitate to do so.”

This change came with caution as the First Minister urged the nation to stick to the new rules: “I am certain that easing restrictions too quickly would be a mistake that we would regret. So do take advantage of the relaxations set out today. But please continue to stay within the rules.”

Ms Sturgeon also paid tribute to the people who had lost their life to the virus in the past 24 hours as well as acknowledging the upcoming anniversary of the national lockdown. 

She announced that there would be a national moment of silence on Tuesday 23 March to pay respect to those who had died as a result of the pandemic.