TO celebrate the Year of Young People, every week in 2018 The National is giving a platform to young Scots. This week, 20-year-old Kieran Pannell

A HUGE issue that we face as a movement is the participation of young people. This should be a big concern, especially when one notes that young people are the most likely to vote for independence. There is a disconnect from politics, and this is true even with 16-year olds voting in the referendum and Scottish elections. Recently, a statement that drew support and optimism from many had quite the opposite effect on me. A paraphrased version is: “Young people are the future of the SNP and will inherit the party”.

The SNP exists to give Scotland independence. The above statement implies that young people do not see independence happening soon, since young people will “inherit the party”. The perspective that independence will not happen soon leaves me jaded as a strong SNP and independence supporter. Have young people become jaded? While they may vote for independence, I would say that the support of young people for the day-to-day work of certainly our local branch (SNP Arbroath) is more difficult to harness, even when lots of work is carried out to rectify this. Much of the work is mundane and unspectacular. Perhaps Keith Brown’s new role in campaigns will spur young people on, or perhaps other branches have a different experience?

Furthermore, the word “inherit” disheartens me. Since independence can be perceived as the end goal of the SNP, would independence mean that the SNP would no longer exist? If this is the case, the SNP are doing themselves out of jobs, something that most politicians would not like to do (although Theresa May is having a good attempt at it). “Inherit” further suggests that young people believe that they will be growing up to be the next Sturgeon or Salmond, rather than making them redundant by winning independence sooner rather than later!

Young people aspiring to be some of the most influential people in Scotland is not necessarily a problem. It’s what the cost of this aspiration may be – more rule from Westminster – that I have a problem with. The aspiration, as it stands, makes me fear that we shall follow the steps of Labour, where people stand and support the party because their parents did or see a potential career from the party, and not properly understand why they believe what they believe. It encourages career politicians, and we must be careful not to become mainstream, but remain edgy in our policies, as this is what invigorates the electorate. This arguably happened to Labour, and we all know what happened there.

For example, the current parliament could become more radical in areas like land reform, while the SNP and Greens have the majority. Maybe it could radically reorganise local taxation. We need to send a different message on general taxation also. The SNP gets a negative press for the 21% band, but we need to press the message that those earning more should be paying more tax, and stress the benefits in kind we get in Scotland such as free education and prescriptions and so on. Graeme McCormick’s ideas for an Annual Ground Rent (AGR) seems a fairer way to raise tax than the current hotch-potch of taxation and tax loopholes which leave our finances threadbare. AGR means that all have to pay it, those who own or use land, and would stop landowners just hoarding land and instead put it to good use. Communities would be given more power to determine their future. Furthermore, such a system goes a long way to stopping tax evasion, a huge issue that we face in this country. This aside, the tax reforms in Scotland that have been implemented recently are excellent. Any of these suggestions may allow us to remain edgy in our policies and allow the wider public to engage with politics.

Another example of what we could improve on, but only after independence because of the devolution settlement, is drug policy. We could opt for a system like that in Switzerland, as explained by Carolyn Leckie’s article of February 26, where decriminalisation and treatment clinics were implemented, reaping positive and lasting results. Crime went down, addiction went down, and many young lives were saved and lived positively. The recent drug death statistics in Scotland will be met with howls of “SNPBad”, conveniently forgetting how it is government policies which make communities hopeless and vulnerable to drug use. The big problem is that drug policy is reserved. Don’t our devastated inner cities need independence? Although we can only make limited headway until independence, we need to create now the Scotland we want on day one, plan radical policies on everything from currency to drugs, from landowning to energy policy, so that when we get independence, we can hit the ground running.

The time for change and radical thinking is now, before the 2021 elections. It is what is most likely to win the SNP the 2021 elections. If we just try not to be controversial, I believe we will pay the price. What people like most about the SNP is their edge and commitment to social justice. That’s what sent me towards them.