For all those unfortunate souls outside the loop of Scottish teen politics, the much-awaited elections to Scotland’s youth parliament are fast approaching. For the likely majority who must be wondering what the flying ‘eff I’m talking about, the Scottish Youth Parliament is the ‘democratically elected voice of Scotland’s young people’, established in 1999. Early March will see weans aged 11-25 from Kirkwall tae Kirkcudbright voting for the youth representatives from their neck of the woods, who, if experience is anything to go by, they’ll never hear from again.
I’m Stuart Gray, and I’ve decided to stand for the seat of Galloway and West Dumfries in the deepest darkest south. This article will basically be me disguising my thinly veiled hatred of the jumped-up old tartan teuchters who are endemic to Galloway and the source of all our problems with a little shameless self-promotion of myself and my election campaign as well ;)
As part of the campaign period, you have to get a manifesto made up. They were released a few weeks ago. Among them are a few gems, with really applause-worthy commitments to tackling more ‘out-there’ things like teen homelessness and ableism. Other manifestos, however, are filled with the same vacuous old shite about better bus times and more litter bins – yawn. Now, far be it for me to suggest that Scottish youngsters shouldn’t have improved transportation links and a tidier environment, but do these people think our top priority is really litter bins? Erm, no.
My manifesto and campaign is hoachin’ wae teenage radicalism and pop culture, stuff I feel actually provokes the young mind. Policies in my manifesto include, for a start, reform of Scottish drug laws, which both potheids and abstainers alike seem tae be rallying around. I’m asking for a harm-reduction based policy that recognises drugs are here to stay, and so we’d best make their use and distribution safer. This policy has been met with the usual predictions of Armageddon from the middle class goons in my registration class, but they’re tae be ignored in the usual fashion. I also want to lower the voting age to 16 in all elections, coz if we can get married, shag, pay taxes, have weans and die in the Iraqi desert at 16, then there’s no argument against letting us march into a ballot booth with a pen at that age.
Mental health is a big one, too – it’s nae surprise that with rising poverty, welfare sanctions, family breakdowns, shite wages, media twats making us feel barkin and a stressful education system that values memorisation over actual learning, things like depression, stress and self-harm on the rise. But despite being so widespread, the crippling stigmatisation of mental illnesses is making far too many suffer in silence and not seek real help and respite. Supermarkets aren’t helping either, with roasters like Tesco only recently pulling derogatory ‘mental patient’ Halloween costumes from their shelves. I’m wanting greater education and awareness on this whole issue, please. Not just posters around the school of sad looking weans, telling us to be nice to them, but actual action – campaigns against derogatory words like psycho, better access to counselling services and an education system that doesn’t leave school pupils wi’ the stress-induced blues cos they cannae pass their algebra.
Advancing the standing of LGBT+ people in Galloway is another biggie for me. Anyone with any knowledge of the area will know it’s rural as f**k – there’s few centres of population and pretty much nothing to do if collecting pinecones isn’t your jam. Crap for anyone, obviously, but particularly isolating for our countryside-dwelling queer brethren. Fortunately, I live in a town, but I have many LGBT+ palz living on farms who can’t get away from their unaccepting families and neighbours. In the absence of young, hip and accepting pals and neighbours to cut aboot with, or supportive communities with accommodating facilities they can access, many rural queers often end up feeling lonely and secluded. Having little to no contact with other LGBT+ people, and with the sense of ‘difference’ being like 10x more prominent, deteriorations in mental wellbeing ensue. Many are ultimately forced to leave for the bigger cities asap where they can feel more comfortable being out and open. Galloway’s demography – older, agricultural and more gawd-fearin’ – therefore makes being a young LGBT+ person here pretty crap. If elected, I want to be a vehicle for serious change for Galloway’s sexual minorities.
One critic of mine said ‘Yer far too interested in the homos!’, and for that, I’m totally guilty as charged. LGBT+ folks in the countryside should be free to live openly, with equal access to stuff like health and education as well as accommodating communities. I want the Pride flag flown from flagpoles in small villages and towns in recognition of International Day Against Homophobia, even if the local Kirk-attendees are spluttering over their cornflakes at the thought of such degeneracy in their backyard. Another idea I’m keen on chasing is greater LGBT+ representation at farming events and galas – things like parade floats, stalls and performers, just so we can have some visibility here. We also need an LGBT-inclusive education system to replace the heteronormative and unrepresentative piece of crap that we have now. I want LGBT History Month to be observed, gender-neutral toilets in schools and I’m crying out for proper inclusive sex education for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender weans. The key, put simply. is visibility and recognition, something which is *totally* lacking right now.
Of course, it doesn’t help having a homophobic MSP for the region. When local bigot Alex Fergusson voted to deny equal civil rights in marriage to his LGBT+ constituents (and his party leader as well, awkward!), I doubt he feared a confrontation with a militant queerhawk like me. But, as they say, hell hath no fury like a homowarrior scorned. If elected, I’d be on his case, constantly asking him uncomfortable questions. Rather than stuffing his constituency office letterbox with homoerotic material (tempting as it is), I will confront his record of being a dick to LGBT+ people face to face, grinning like a smug mofo’ as I watch him squirm. Our self-confessed ‘evangelical Christian’ will undoubtedly hide behind his holiness to justify his queerbashing, but I’ll conveniently remind him that his pal Yeshua said sweet f-a about les gays, rendering his religious justification for hating LGBT+ people totally unfounded.
So, will I get into the youth parliament? F**k knows! Galloway and West Dumfries, with its pious teuchters and middle class weans, doesn’t seem like the type of place to return a foul-mouthed wee commie to the youth parliament. However, the battle for the seat is raging, and I’m stimulating debate as I chase the votes of my peers. Folks seem genuinely interested by my policies, even if they don’t entirely agree with them. I’m finding that many young folks are actually saying that they find politics awright, even if their level of engagement does only stretch to retweeting #SexySocialism bantz.
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