Skip to main content


EACEA National Policies Platform


5. Participation

5.3 Youth representation bodies

Last update: 25 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 02/10/2020

On this page
  1. Youth parliament
  2. Youth councils and/or youth advisory boards
  3. Higher education student union(s)
  4. School student union(s)
  5. Other bodies


Youth parliament

The Scottish Youth Parliament, set up in 1999, is a youth-led, rights-based organisation. Its mission, vision and values are based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC; see the article on 'Young People's Participation in Policy-making'). It exists to provide a national platform for young people to discuss the issues that are important to them, and campaign to bring about change in the areas they consider to have priority.

The Scottish Youth Parliament is a charity with a youth-led organisational structure, as outlined on its website. Its Board of Trustees is advised by experienced leaders in business and the public sector and supported by a team of staff. It receives funding from the Scottish Government.

Elections are held every two years for up to 200 young people to become Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs). MSYPs range in ages from 14 to 25 and represent constituencies in all 32 local authorities throughout the country and several national voluntary organisations. Elections were held in March 2019. 

The Scottish Youth Parliament holds three sittings a year and MSYPs can also sit as members or conveners of committee groups. Each year, MSYPs vote on a topic for a national campaign. Every year, SYP delivers a national campaign which focuses on a major issue affecting young people in Scotland.  In 2019 MSYPs voted for ‘environmental protection’ to be the focus of the 2019-20 campaign. This campaign is called ‘Pack it up, Pack it in’ and aims 'To empower young people to speak out and take action to reduce pollution levels in Scotland, more information can be found on SYP website

The UK Youth Parliament (UKYP) also provides opportunities for 11 to 18 year olds to bring about social change. Scotland has 15 seats in the UKYP (out of more than 369 in total), covering the seven UKYP Scottish Regions, in order to give it representation on UK-wide issues. Members must also be sitting members of the Scottish Youth Parliament. See the section on 'Youth Parliament' for England for further information about its structure, members and funding.

Youth councils and/or youth advisory boards

Most local authorities host a Youth Council, or equivalent. This is generally made up of young people, aged between 14 and 25, from different areas and interest groups in the local authority's area. Youth Councillors involve and consult young people on matters of concern to them.

Higher education student union(s)

The National Union of Students Scotland (NUS Scotland) is an autonomous body within the National Union of Students UK. It is the national representative body of around 500,000 students studying in further and higher education in Scotland and was formed following the merger of NUS in Scotland with the Scottish Union of Students in 1971.

NUS Scotland is headed up by three full-time officers NUS Scotland President, NUS Scotland Vice President (Education), NUS Scotland Women's Officer and the voluntary role of NUS Scotland Vice President (Communities).  

NUS Scotland's budget is set at NUS UK's Annual Conference, however, the Scottish Executive Committee controls expenditure and finances and staff are managed by the NUS Scotland Director. Funding for NUS Scotland is provided through a mixture of affiliation fees, grants and investment income from private organisations.

School student union(s)

There is no top-level body representing secondary school students. While it is government policy to encourage schools to involve students in the life of the school, it is up to individual schools as to how to do this. School (or pupil or student) councils, representative groups of students who have been proposed and elected by their peers to represent their views and raise issues with the leadership and governors of the school, are common but are not formally organised into networks. See the section on ‘Non-formal and informal learning’ for more information.

Other bodies

sparqs (Student Partnerships in Quality Scotland), is a charity which was founded in 2003. It is funded by the Scottish Funding Council to advance education by promoting and environment in which students are able to make a positive and rewarding difference to their own and others' educational experience. As outlined on their website, sparqs provides support to students in both colleges and universities to help them engage with issues relating to the quality of teaching and learning.

Scottish councils (for example Scottish Borders Youth Voice) work to empower young people up to the age of 25 years in decision-making in their local community. Councils bring together a number of organisations which work with young people and adults within the local authority, including the Scottish Youth Parliament; Youth Voice Teams and Digital Voice, which work to raise young people's issues and increase young people's digital participation.

The British Youth Council (BYC) is an independent UK-wide charity run for and by young people which works to empower young people and promote their interests at a local, national, European and international level. In 2016, the UK Government confirmed continued funding until 2020 in support of BYC’s ‘Youth Voice’ programme, which includes the UK Youth Parliament (see ‘Youth parliament). For more information, visit the Youth Voice webpage.

The Youth Voice Leadership Development Programme, a BYC flagship event, brings youth representatives from across the UK together for training courses to help develop their leadership skills, that will support them become successful representatives for their peers and community.

The Youth Select Committee, is a BYC initiative, supported by the House of Commons. There are eleven committee members, aged 15 to 18, and include Members of the UK Youth Parliament, Youth Councillors, a Young Mayor, and reserved seats and representatives from each devolved nation. It forms part of the ‘Youth Voice’ programme run by the BYC and includes one elected representative for Scotland. It enables young people to participate on a national level – hold inquiries into issues that they care about to influence policies.