AC May’s View on Young People

Monday April 12th 2021


Midlothian View Holyrood Challenge: This View has been written by AC May, the Scottish Liberal Democrats's candidate in the Midlothian South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale constituency for the Scottish Elections on Thursday May 6th 2021

At the weekend, the four major parties agreed to suspend their campaign activities, as a mark of respect and condolence to mark the passing of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. This is to give people – those who want to – the time and space for contemplation and reflection. The Scottish Greens chose not to do so.

Whatever one’s view on monarchy, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh gave a lifetime in service, as well as a being a loving partner and husband in 73 years of marriage. It’s always difficult to know how to react when such a prominent public figure dies. Of course, I didn’t know him personally, but in a way we all knew him throughout our lives.

The one time I did meet him I was just 16, for the presentation of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award – his youth development scheme for 14-24 year olds – at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This was before the building of the parliament, and my opponents might say it’s the closest I’ll ever come to the place!

This brings me on to my topic this week. Last week, I wrote about Early Years, and Scottish Liberal Democrat policies in this key area. This week, as the second in a four-part series, I want to move on to issues affecting Young People.

I wouldn’t want to face the challenges our young people face today. It’s a crazy always-on connected world, a world of online ‘Likes’, shaming and trolling. Diversity is now championed, but get it wrong and you can quickly find yourself isolated and stressed. There’s the overly restrictive National 5s curriculum, forcing pupils to make early choices. There was the exam fiasco, where a broad-brush formula altered your results up-or-down depending on which school you attend – only reversed in a U-turn forced by the Scottish Liberal Democrats and other opposition parties.

Students faced moving into accommodation more akin to internment camps, paying good money to stay there (often debt of Student Loans) only to find courses were being conducted online anyway. Once again, the government was forced to concede to pressure from ourselves and others.

The job market – especially at the entry-level – faces a highly uncertain period ahead, with hospitality and tourism jobs, not to mention office-based working, being the hardest hit.

Drugs – and their consequences – continue to blight many of our communities. The current drugs policy is failing – with the focus still being on criminalisation of addicts rather than support and rehabilitation. The mental health approach is failing – time-after-time, and it’s the most vulnerable, their families and friends who end up paying the price.

This needs to change if our young people are ever to stand a chance in life. Even with a good job, many young people’s aspiration of home ownership is now less achievable than it has ever been.

Vaccines – the clearest path out of the pandemic – will be offered to the young last. This is for good, clinical reasons, but doesn’t help much when you consider it’s young people who need their social and vocational mobility the most. So-called ‘Vaccine Passports’ (ID cards by the back-door) are not the answer. If you want to know why, and what should be done instead, see my blog at

We, the Scottish Liberal Democrats are focused on all these issues, campaigning on each of them in parliament. We build our policies and our manifesto around them, around the issues that affect people in their real lives. Why? It’s what we’re about. It’s what we’ve always been about.

Prince Philip understood what it meant to spend a life in service to others. In my tatty, little green book of the award scheme he writes of ‘discovering fresh interests and making new friends, finding satisfaction in giving service to others, and increasing knowledge of the world and of yourself.’

Now, more than ever, we must carry that forward, providing young people with opportunities for personal development as they prepare for their path through life.

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