THE Tories really do despise young people, don’t they? Life in the UK has got worse and worse under their 14 years in government for almost everyone except the millionaire class.

But as a young person who barely remembers a time before Tory rule, it feels like almost every aspect of life for our generation in particular has become more unfair, more inaccessible, more depressing.

And the really sad thing is that Keir Starmer’s Labour seem to be offering very little in the way of change.

I really don’t think there could’ve been a better way of summing up the Conservative Party’s disdain for young people than their first flagship policy announcement in the General Election campaign of – I can’t quite believe I’m writing this – bringing back national service.

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They want every 18-year-old in the country to either spend a year in the military or a weekend every month doing mandatory volunteer work. That’s right: mandatory volunteering – one of the most quintessentially oxymoronic concepts since “compassionate conservatism”.

Rishi Sunak is certainly right about one thing: young people are being deprived of opportunity in this country. While his solution is forced labour, I might suggest that adequately funding public services might be a more appropriate and easier alternative.

If you want to provide opportunities for young people, fund places for them to meet and socialise. Maintain local green spaces, invest in youth work, and redistribute wealth so young people can actually afford to not just survive but to thrive.

Then throw in the fact that the Tories needlessly withdrew the UK from the Erasmus+ scheme as part of the Brexit negotiations. According to Universities UK, it generated a net profit of more than £240 million a year to the UK economy compared to the £2.5 billion cost of the national service plan.

This has got nothing to do with providing opportunities, otherwise the Tories would accept the European Commission’s recent offer to work constructively on rebuilding the UK’s participation in reciprocal youth exchange.

In typical Keir Starmer form, Labour’s response to the bizarre national service announcement was to complain that it was unfunded, rather than taking any real aim at the draconian nature of it.

The contempt for young people is something both of the main Westminster parties have in common. Although Labour have the odd good policy for young people here and there, they are an exception – not the rule.

Commitments such as votes at 16 are important but Scotland has had this for local and Holyrood elections for almost a decade now. Far more radical solutions are needed to transform the UK’s broken democracy – including proportional representation, abolishing the shameful unelected House of Lords, and respecting Scotland’s right to decide our own future.

What will Westminster votes at 16 mean for Scotland’s young people, other than the right to vote in an election where Scottish voices aren’t listened to anyway – unless we vote the same way as England?

The options on the table from Labour and the Tories this election are just so deeply uninspiring. How can any young person feel excited about voting in this election when the overarching message seems to be that a better world for us is just not possible?

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In the last 14 years, young people have been subjected to huge student debt (yes, even in Scotland, where postgraduate degrees and the cost of living leave students tens of thousands of pounds in the red); spiralling rent; stagnant wages; a pandemic which caused huge disruption to our education, our social development and our finances; increasing inequality; and the relentless demonisation of us and our peers, particularly those exercising our democratic right to protest against political inaction on the climate crisis or the genocide in Gaza.

The issues that are important to young people are being tossed aside in this election and enough is enough. It’s no wonder then, that in both Scotland and the UK as a whole, the respective Green parties are polling higher than the Tories among under-40s.

The generational voting gap is widening, with analysis over the last few years showing the young people of today are bucking the trend and are less likely to become more conservative with age than previous generations were.

After all, why would younger people of today become more conservative when we can clearly see how conservatism has made our lives objectively worse over recent decades?

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Sadly, conservatism is all that’s on offer from Westminster. Starmer’s Labour have confirmed that if elected, his government would keep sky-high tuition fees for students in England and wouldn’t even rule out raising them.

His workers’ rights plan was described by the union Unite as having “more holes in it than Swiss cheese” and the party seems to have no intention of devolving employment law to Holyrood, despite the clear demand to do so from the trade union movement.

On the climate emergency – an issue which is unsurprisingly deeply important for so many young people given it will affect us and our future generations disproportionately – Labour have dropped their £28bn climate commitments and won’t even commit to rescinding the hugely destructive oil and gas licenses being recklessly issued by the Tories.

Both the Tories and Labour have made a calculation that young people’s votes are simply less important to them than those of Baby Boomer Middle Englanders – so it’s up to us young people to prove them wrong.

It’s true that young people are usually less likely to turn up and vote at elections than our older counterparts, and the Tories’ anti-democratic voter ID rules have been designed specifically to prevent young people and students from voting.

It has never been more important for young people to take the time to register to vote, to make sure we’ve got the right voter ID (or alternatively request a postal vote which doesn’t require ID) and turn up on July 4 to send a clear message that young people’s voices do matter, and we will be heard.