It started out with debates around the dinner table at home, now a Linlithgow teenager is standing up for young people’s rights in Parliament.
Alice Ferguson (15) was elected alongside her friend Lucy Martinto to represent youngsters across West Lothian at the Scottish Youth Parliament in March this year.
For the next two years the Linlithgow Academy pupil will be juggling her school work with her commitment to her constituency something which she is very passionate about.
She said: “I want to get youths involved in politics. A lot of youngsters know what they want to say they just don’t know how to say it.
“For me, it is about giving them a voice.”
She added: “I have always been very confident, I try to stand up for my peers and I think becoming a MSYP is a great opportunity.”
Alice, who enjoys travelling and has been to Japan where she says she loved the experience of a different culture, goes into fourth year after the summer break.
She lives at home in Parkhead Road with her mum Katie who is a medical researcher and dad Ross who is a banker and brother Archie (12).
Alice said: “We always have debates around the table at home and it is usually on anything and everything.”
On June 24 she met her new colleagues in the Parliament’s first sitting in West Dunbartonshire at Vale of Leven Academy.
She said: “It was a really exciting and great to meet everyone. We elected a new chairperson and had a big celebration.”
The Scottish Youth Parliament was established in 1999 and celebrated its 18th birthday on June 30.
It is a politically independent organisation which aims to represent the young people of Scotland. Candidates like Alice come from all 32 local authorities throughout Scotland and are aged between 14 and 25.
Previous campaigns from the SYP have included votes for 16 and 17 year olds at Scottish Parliamentary elections, the living wage, improved rights for young carers, and raising awareness of child poverty in Scotland.
This year the focus is on raising the awareness of young people’s rights.
Alice believes young people are not fully aware of what their rights are and feels they sometimes suffer from a bad press.
She said: “I think some people think young people are just cheeky and cause bother but I don’tagree.
“There are a lot of young people who do good things and more should be done to highlight this. We are very interested in our world and how we can help change it for the better.”
One of the issues she would like to tackle is underage drinking.
The Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) 2015 found that two thirds of 15 year olds (66 per cent) and a third (28 per cent) of 13 year olds have drank alcohol. Of the 15 year olds who have had alcohol, 68 per cent had been drunk at least once, while the number was 45 per cent in 13 year olds.
Alice said: “We need to deliver workshops in schools which examine the dangers of alcohol abuse. I’d invite keynote speakers such as victims or the police to talk about the dangers and educate teenagers at school assemblies.”
She believes part of the solution involves making sport more freely accessible to young people.
“One of the issues that has come up is sports facilities. We have always been told young people need to exercise more and be healthy but a lot of people are not willing or are unable to pay £5 to go to the gym or £20 an hour for pitch facilities.
“We have great facilities which are lying empty at lunch time and during the holidays. If we had football pitches open an hour a week for free, people would use them.
“It’s great to see the council’s free swimming initiative so why can’t that be replicated across all sports? Sport helps to develop confidence, self esteem and mental wellbeing.”
The next meeting of the SYP will be on October 27 and 28 at the Scottish Parliament. To contact Alice about issues involving young people visit her website https://aliceruby.wixsite.com/msyp.