Electoral reform campaigners are to step up demands for 16- and 17-year-olds to be given full voting rights across the UK, after parties at Holyrood backed the measure for Scottish parliament and council elections. The Scottish parliament voted unanimously in favour of allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local elections late on Thursday, barely 4o minutes after the Commons rejected cross-party moves to do so for the European Union referendum. Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said those contradictory votes by the two parliaments would increase the democratic deficit for younger voters within the UK, particularly for English and Northern Irish teenagers.
It widened the gulf between Westminster and devolved legislatures in Scotland, where the Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson supported the extended franchise, and Wales, where the Cardiff assembly will soon have powers to extend the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds for local elections.
“Today’s vote at Westminster was a huge missed opportunity for our democracy, and we hope MPs will rethink the decision to exclude well over a million young people from the EU referendum,” Ghose said, after MPs voted 310 to 265 against the measure.