12 December 2017

S5M-09498 Year of Young People

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-09498, in the name of Maree Todd, on celebrating our future: Scotland’s year of young people.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

It is one of the great paradoxes of life that, when people are youngsters, they cannot wait to grow up, but when they get to my age, they wish they were youngsters.

I am a member of SNP youth. Admittedly, I am an honorary member, but I hope that I still think like a young person. Therefore, I am stepping up to the plate to thoroughly enjoy the year of young people. It is a wonderful initiative for people such as me and, for that matter, the ever-young Iain Gray, who was doing himself far too far down by referring to his bus pass—I have had four so far.

My serious point is that the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow, and Ross Greer, Alex Cole-Hamilton and other members around the chamber said that, too. The campaign that we are embarking on for 2018 is an opportunity for young people throughout Scotland to be heard and for their achievements to be recognised. The events will be in all parts of our country and will provide opportunities for people such as me—adults, if we revert to type—and youngsters.

We will see ingenuity of a character that we often do not suspect is there; Brian Whittle referred to the idea of using giraffes as police aids or police animals. When I visited King Edward school—like other members, I love visiting schools, particularly primary schools—the whole school was sat in one gymnasium. The headteacher of that small school said, “Mr Stevenson is here to answer all your questions”. I said, “I know all the answers”, so what immediately happened? Somebody at the back put up their hand and said, “What’s my brother’s name?”

The youngsters always beat the oldsters at every opportunity, and Stewart Stevenson is put back in his box, where he deserves to be. [Interruption.] I love it when the Tories applaud something that I have said. Could the parties on the other benches please do it, too? [Interruption.] Thank you, Mr Cole-Hamilton. Our young people are a tremendous investment that we are making in our future, and with good reason.

I want to say a few words about the annual Aberdeen international youth festival, which is one of the north-east’s superb cultural events. The festival brings together young people from around the world to perform, showcase their talents and build bridges between nations, and includes dance, theatre, musical and other performances. It has been going since 1973, so it is not something that has just appeared. The minister appears to be suggesting that it started before she was born, and I believe her. The festival has hosted more than 30,000 young people from across the globe. This year’s festival included performers from Italy, Jamaica, Ukraine, Morocco, Spain, Cuba, Russia, the Ivory Coast, Iceland, India, China, Norway, Brazil, Zimbabwe and even that distant outpost of civilisation the United States of America. It will, of course, have been attended by a few locals from the north-east and the rest of Scotland, too.

Besides pure entertainment, the festival provides educational opportunities, classes and workshops to allow people to learn. It has been a vibrant part of north-east life for a very long time. It lasts nine days, so it is a substantial event. Historically, the festival has been funded in large part by Aberdeen City Council, and it has been supported throughout its history by the former Conservative member of this Parliament Dr Nanette Milne, and properly so. In the present circumstances, I hope that she will speak to her colleagues in Aberdeen City Council who are looking at withdrawing the finance from the festival. I am disappointed that Oliver Mundell is not here, because he could take real action by talking to his colleagues in Aberdeen. With his complaints, he gave us no action whatsoever. I am sure that we will get to the right place—perhaps what we are saying here will encourage the council to have another think. It has not formally made a decision yet, although I understand that it has made it in private.

There is a survey that shows that what us wrinklies think of young people is not that favourable—25 per cent are considered lazy, a third are considered irresponsible and 40 per cent are seen as poor communicators. I do not agree. When I was at primary school, my communication skills were almost zero compared to those of this generation, who can speak and engage with us in a tremendous way. Young people have skills with modern technologies that us older people lack. That can be quite scary and almost threatening, but it is absolutely necessary for the modern world. The young have the power to lead. In schools across Scotland, the climate change challenge is being picked up by youngsters, who go home and persuade their parents and other adults who they meet. That is an inspiration that we should acknowledge.

I love spending time with young people. I will be having lunch with my six-year-old goddaughter Darcey on Friday. On Tuesday, the Danish part of my family—my great-niece Selma and her brother Scott—will be here in Parliament to brief me on what goes on in Danish politics and show that we can probably do things better.

Jenny Gilruth is half my age and has twice my brains. She is young, not old, and she, like all young people, is the future.


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