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EACEA National Policies Platform


5. Participation

5.8 Raising political awareness among young people

Last update: 25 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 09/10/2020 - 22:44

On this page
  1. Information providers / counselling structures
  2. Youth-targeted information campaigns about democratic rights and democratic values
  3. Promoting the intercultural dialogue among young people
  4. Promoting transparent and youth-tailored public communication


Information providers / counselling structures

The Scottish Parliament has a dedicated Community Outreach Services Team, whose role involves:

  • providing opportunities to learn about the Scottish Parliament through offering free workshops,
  • supporting groups and  young people to feed their views into inquiries and consultations carried out by the Scottish Parliament Committees, and 
  • supporting groups and individuals to have their voices heard and take part in parliamentary processes.

Officers from the team are available to give further information and advice to individuals and groups on getting involved in the work of the Scottish Parliament.

The Electoral Commission is the official regulator of elections for the UK. Some of its campaigns, such as promoting eligibility to register to vote, are aimed mainly at young people.

Young Scot is the national youth information and citizenship charity. It provides young people, aged 11 - 26, with a mixture of information, ideas and incentives to help them become confident, informed and active citizens. It does this in a variety of formats, including online, social, apps, magazines, and phone, etc., so young people can access information in a way with which they are comfortable.

Youth-targeted information campaigns about democratic rights and democratic values

The UK Government operates within a general system of open government, based on the principle that:

Governments and institutions work better for citizens when they are transparent, engaging and accountable.

Details are in the third UK Open Government National Action Plan, covering the period 2019-2021.

n 2015, the Cabinet Office and the Scottish Youth Parliament developed a Youth Democracy Resource Pack to encourage young people to register to vote for the first time. In March 2017, the Electoral Commission launched a ReadyToVote campaign, which was run in partnership with education bodies and councils across Scotland. For the December 2019 election, organisations released information to encourage young people to register to vote. Young Scot ran several information campaigns which you can read here

UK Parliament Week has been developed by the Houses of Parliament as part of its Outreach and Engagement Service. It is a programme of events and activities and an online conversation to connect people with the UK Parliament. Although the programme is not specifically targeted at young people, there is a dedicated section on the website providing ideas for schools and youth organisations to get involved in running or attending events.

Furthermore, the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) (for more information see ‘Youth Parliament’) chosen national campaign for 2017 was Right Here, Right Now. The campaign focused on raising young people’s awareness of and their understanding of their rights and empower them to take action on issues that affect them. The objectives of the campaign were to promote young people’s rights and empower them to take action to defend and use their rights; influence law and policy; improve links between young people and public bodies to protect and promote young people’s rights; and strengthen the status of Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament as the voice of Scottish young people. The 2019-21 campaign Pack it Up, Pack It In, also focuses on promoting young people’s rights but in the context of environmental issues. Its overarching aim is to empower young people to speak out and take action to reduce pollution levels in Scotland. 

Additionally, Rights Outright: SYP’s Brexit Manifesto, was developed as part of the Right Here, Right Now campaign. It is SYP’s national campaign to defend young people’s rights during Brexit negotiations. Under Article 12 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, young people have a right to participate and be represented in the negotiations, and Scottish and UK decision-makers must take this into account. More information can be found on SYP website.


Promoting the intercultural dialogue among young people

Sectarianism in Scotland is most often related to Protestant and Roman Catholic divisions within Christianity and the bigotry that manifests itself through abusive actions and words.

Education Scotland provides resources to help in tackling sectarianism. It has invested in organisations and agencies to gain a better understanding of sectarianism in Scotland. This has included providing additional funding to police, educational establishments, third sector organisations and researchers. The purpose was to look at what sectarianism is in present day Scotland and the best ways to deal with its consequences. A range of quality assured teaching resources is available from the Education Scotland website.

Nil By Mouth is Scotland’s leading anti-sectarian charity that works to celebrate diversity in Scotland through education and training, resource provision and campaigns. Past campaigns include ‘Champions for Change’ a nationwide schools programme that promoted positive relationships between children of different backgrounds through educational, cultural and sporting activities.

In addition, there are initiatives such as the twinning of denominational and non-denominational schools which has led to positive learning experiences for children and young people. This twinning involves schools sharing a campus, whilst others join in collaborative events with their partners.

Stand Up to Sectarianism is a six-partner consortium comprising: Girlguiding Scotland, the Boys' Brigade, the Girls' Brigade, the Scout Association (Scottish Council), Clubs for Young People (Scotland) and Youth Scotland. Following a pilot project, it is now offering a range of resources and support including a small grants programme for projects aimed at combating sectarianism and peer education for young people.

YouthLink Scotland, the National Agency for Youth Work, has set up the first independent public website designed to challenge sectarianism in Scotland, supported by the Scottish Government. It includes a dedicated channel for 13- to 18-year-olds where young people can see other young people’s experiences of sectarianism and tell their own stories in the ‘Talking Heads’ interactive zone.

As outlined in the final report of New Scots: Integrating Refugees in Scotland's Communities 2014-17, the Scottish Government funded the 'Sharing Lives Sharing Languages' project, a peer education pilot aimed at building connections between Scottish host communities and refugees and individuals whose first language is not English. The project ran from January to July 2017 and involved peer educators being trained to welcome new Scots and support them to meet new people, learn about the local community and practise their new language skills. Further information about the project can be found on the Scottish Refugee Council website and its evaluation report can be found on the Scottish Refugee Council website. This project also informed the Refugee Integration Strategy 2018-2022.  

Promoting transparent and youth-tailored public communication

Whilst not being specific to young people, the following two documents from the Scottish Government promote transparent public communication:

  • In January 2019, the Scottish Government published its first Open Government National Action Plan 2018-2020, which outlines how the Scottish Government’s  commitment to openness in the way they govern; increasing availability of information, supporting civic participation, implementing high standards of professional integrity and increasing access to promote openness and accountability.


In a 2015 report by the House of Commons Commission on Digital Democracy, the key targets and recommendations outlined included: by 2020, the House of Commons should ensure that everyone can understand what it does by using plain English language and the use of more infographics and visual datas; Parliament should be fully interactive and digital; and by 2016, all published information and broadcast footage should be available online freely for the public. The targets and recommendations contribute toward creating a more open and transparent government (note, however, that the action plan is not specific to young people). 

In conjunction with the Scottish Parliament’s Digital Engagement Tools Team, the Futures Forum held a seminar on 22 May 2019 to explore how the Scottish Parliament can best engage with citizens in a digital age.

The Scottish Government also supports the use of plain English and encourages the use of plain English editing services to make sure documents and publications are easy for a wide and diverse range of people to read and understand. In 2011 it published Principles of Inclusive Communication to encourage employees throughout Government offices to use plain English in public communications.

The Office of the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland has an aim, set out in its strategic plan for 2020-24 of ensuring that it is efficient, effective and fit for purpose. It states:

Our Communications Team will create helpful and accessible information for children and young people. This information will encourage them to engage directly with our office to ensure they know there is a Commissioner and team who work for them. It will also make sure they can learn more about their human rights and the work we do on their behalf. The Team will also work to raise awareness and understanding of children’s human rights with adult decision-makers, professionals and parents and carers.