Reinstatement of Highland Youth Convener welcomed in latest national report

The report's authors, John Ross Scott, right, and Kristopher Leask, say progress has been made. NO F26 JR report
The report's authors, John Ross Scott, right, and Kristopher Leask, say progress has been made. NO F26 JR report

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The re-establishment of the post of Highland Youth Convener has been welcomed by the authors of a new follow up report looking at how well local authorities are at engaging with young people.

Orkney councillor John Ross Scott and colleague Kristopher Leask released their report, ‘Being Heard’ in 2018 and a year later their newly released follow up study shows that overall, local authorities in Scotland, even those that had to endure cuts in services, made progress during 2019 towards improving the role of young people in decision-making, but only when lead councillors and officials take a keen interest in engagement does the process become anything other than tokenistic.

‘Being Heard: One Year On’ highlights the importance of allowing young people a full say at the heart of decision making – whether serving on committees or Community Planning Partnerships in an ex-officio capacity or in feeding views through Youth Forums to councillors serving as Young People’s Champions who speak on behalf of, and work with, young people locally.

It argues that the 1948 Education Act that allows three religious representatives a place on each of Scotland’s 32 council’s Education Committees should be revised, allowing parents and students their place.

The authors – through evidence collected from all of Scotland’s councils and national bodies – reveal that while CLD and youth workers across Scotland are working tirelessly to promote and enhance the voice of youth in decision making there remains in many councils a clear disconnect between councillors and young people with many councillors still dubious about the benefits of inclusion.

Mr Scott, a former leader of Scottish Borders Council, said: ‘We used the same format of evidence collection for all councils to ensure there was no bias in the study.

‘Our original Being Heard Report was a snapshot in time on young people engagement. What it could not show was the speed at which progress was being made. This study allowed us to track progress or the lack of it over the past year.’

On Highland Council’s performance, Mr Scott told the Lochaber Times: In 2018 Highland Council was an exemplar and it’s unique post of Youth Convener – at the time a post held by 20-year-old Esme Leitch from Lochaber – was seen as a key role in assisting engagement with young people over the immense Highland region.

‘Sadly, the discontinuation of the post – managed and run by High Life Highland – was a backward step by the council according to young people so instead of being in the ‘Maintaining High Standards’ category, the region – because of other factors – was only listed in the ‘Progress’ category.

‘Nevertheless the council has done well in 2019 and we are delighted to note that the Youth Convener’s post will now be reestablished.’