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Representing young people in our policy work

Paul Daly, our Policy and Research Manager, blogs about the development of our Manifesto.

I’m a boring white man who is a bit geeky and interested in politics. MSPs and Ministers meet people like me every day. Sometimes dozens of us in a day. In their minds we all blend into one, but if we’re lucky, sometimes what we say to them clicks and we’re able to influence their decisions and approaches to legislation. And that’s what my job is: to create the moment that something clicks in their mind and their understanding evolves, leading to good legislation that makes things better for LGBTI young people.  But I have a secret. I don’t do that.  Given the opportunity, young people at LGBT Youth Scotland create those moments for themselves and they are the best people to speak about their own experiences and hopes for the future. 

And I know this works. With the election coming up I got letters and messages from MSPs thanking us for letting them hear directly from the young people we work with, and I’ve been told it helps shape their understanding – because although they’re allies, most MSPs aren’t LGBTI themselves.

That’s why LGBT Youth Scotland puts young people’s views and experiences at the centre of our work. It’s why we bring them into the room with politicians and let them share their own experiences. It’s why we do research and present these findings to make the case for change. Our approach to developing our manifesto was no different, in fact it’s right there in the title: Speaking up for our Future: LGBT Youth Scotland Manifesto 2021-2026.

I can proudly say that our manifesto reflects the views of young LGBTI people from across Scotland; it’s what they want the next batch of MSPs to work on. I can say this with certainty because we spent months engaging with young people to hear their voices. Covid meant we couldn’t visit our youth groups around the country in person, but we did “visit” them via our Pride & Pixels online community hub. We also used an online survey that we shared via our social media channels to reach even further and hear even more voices. Then, we analysed all that data and began to build a picture of the common issues and themes.

To make this accessible for politicians, we connected these issues and themes with the specific powers the Scottish Parliament has, and identified which gaps exist in existing legislation. We also suggested where we believe additional funding should be prioritised.

You can read the manifesto in full, but the key areas it covers are:

  • LGBTI inclusive education
  • Healthcare for trans young people
  • LGBT young people’s mental health
  • Protect and progress LGBTI young people’s rights
  • Community safety and safer spaces

We also worked alongside our friends at the Equality Network, Scottish Trans Alliance and Stonewall Scotland to create a joint manifesto which dovetails with ours and advocates for change to benefit LGBTI people of all ages in Scotland.

So, what next? When the election is over and the new session of Parliament kicks off, we’ll be back at it again. Meeting old and new MSPs and building on or creating new relationships with them. We’ll make sure they hear directly from young people, aiming to inspire that “click” in their minds and solidify their position as an ally to LGBTI young people.

You can help us start that journey! LGBT organisations in Scotland have joined forces to create a 5-point pledge for candidates standing in the election. We need as many people as possible to email their local candidates to encourage them to sign up. It’s a speedy automated system, so won’t take more than two minutes of your time.

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