This year, many young people in Scotland will have the chance to vote in a General Election for the first time – I am one of them.
Many will be thinking about what the Westminster parties have to offer us – and rapidly coming to the conclusion that the answer is nothing except more of the same. My generation has grown up knowing nothing but Westminster austerity and we’ve seen the impact of these brutal cuts in our communities our whole lives – with families facing poverty, forced to rely on foodbanks, and young people having our hopes for the future squashed with decisions like Brexit ripping away opportunities.
Conversely, we’ve also grown up taking for granted the role that the SNP Scottish Government plays in protecting us from the worst excesses of Westminster austerity – and taking forward policies which are changing our lives for the better.
Since the SNP entered government, 690,000 students have benefitted from free tuition – meaning a whole generation of young people in Scotland, like me, have had the chance to attend university and fulfil their potential, and have not been saddled with tens of thousands of pounds of tuition fee debt like students south of the border.
90,000 children are being lifted out of poverty in Scotland this year thanks to anti-poverty measures including the Scottish Child Payment. The right to free school meals is being expanded.
We’ve got free bus travel for young people and we can see our Scottish Government taking real action to tackle the climate emergency.
These are policies matter. They are making a real difference to the lives of everyone I know. More than that, these are our values, Scotland’s values, in action – and they could not be further removed from the values of parties at Westminster and the likes of Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer.
Labour under Starmer are doubling down on the same right-wing agenda as the Tories – and ditching every progressive policy which young people have been crying out for. Whether on austerity, on Gaza, on the appalling mistreatment of refugees, Labour is moving further and further to the right because they are taking people like me (my friends, my families, my neighbours) for granted.
Their commitment to the absolute disaster of Brexit which is not just harming our economy, but robbing people of my generation of the opportunities which previous generations enjoyed is the perfect example.
It has never been clearer that there is a failed, Westminster consensus that simply does not reflect Scotland’s values – and young people across Scotland are completely fed up with it.
In Humza Yousaf, we have a First Minister who reflects Scotland’s values – and at the General Election this year, each of us has the opportunity to put our values into effect and vote SNP, making Scotland’s voice heard.
Our young people can’t afford more regressive, right-wing Westminster politics with a UK Government stoking culture wars, committing to Brexit, cutting Scotland’s budget and driving more people into poverty.
We need to vote for a party that will stand up for Scotland’s interests – and reflect our very clear desire for a change from the failed consensus on austerity, Brexit and right-wing politics.
That is why, as I get ready to vote in my first General Election, I will be voting SNP. I firmly believe that most of our young people will do the same. Mine is the generation that will benefit most from Scotland’s independence – and the General Election is our opportunity to make it clear to the Westminster parties that their time is up.