SNP members have ignored the pleas of the leadership and voted to stop 16 year olds joining the army.

It’s been a long running battle in the party, with MSPs and MPs taking different positions.

In an impassioned speech, Rhiannon Spear, the Glasgow councillor who’s also the national convenor of the SNP youth wing, and who has been campaigning on this for the last few years won huge cheers as asked for members to support her call.

The motion would see the party lobby the UK Government “to work towards raising the the minimum armed forces recruitment age from 16 to 18 for all roles that require combat training in line with international standards”.

It also “affirms that this will form a part of the SNP’s defence policy for an independent Scotland.”

SNP’s Westminster defence spokespeople, MPs Stewart McDonald and Carol Monaghan, attempted to pass an amendment to the youth motion, but conference overwhelmingly rejected it.

Spear told the party faithful: “The UK is currently the only country in the EU and Nato which recruits at 16. In fact you can currently be recruited at 15 year and seven months. Let that sink in for a moment. Fifteen year olds are being targeted by the Ministry of Defence to be recruited into our armed forces.

Quoting from a report by medical charity Medact, Spear, said the MOD took “direct advantage of how young people’s brains work, and their psychosocial vulnerabilities,” targeting alienated youngsters “searching for their place in the world under the immense austerity pressures of job insecurity and low pay”.

“In August when our young people were racking their nerves waiting for their higher results, the MoD paid for targeted advertising on Twitter and Facebook,” she said.

Those who join at 16 were, she added, more likely to suffer from PTSD, alcohol abuse, self harm, commit suicide and were more likely to die or be injured in active service.

McDonald argued that as the party who had given 16 year olds the vote, it was sending a poor message for the SNP to then tell those same 16 year olds they weren’t mature enough to make a choice about joining the army.

“For decades we have always sought to empower young people. We have argued that young people have the agency to marry, to pay taxes, and yes, to take part in that ultimate act of citizenship, to vote.

“Because we have not seen them as children we have seen them as young adults, and what they have shown better in 2014 than at any other time, was that when they have the agency and the capacity to make decision for themselves they know the best choices to make for themselves. “

McDonald also announced the establishment of a commission to advise the party on what offer the SNP will make to the armed services, now and in an independent Scotland.

He told delgates: “As a party of government, and one that seeks the creation of a new state, no less, it is vital the safety and security of our people are at the front of our minds. Those who choose to serve in uniform their welfare occupies our mind as well.“

His colleague, Carol Monaghan, a former teacher, said for some people who come from chaotic backgrounds the army “can be the saving of them”

She spoke of a pupil called Danny, who joined up at 16 and whom she said she’d met recently.

“I told him I always worried about him. He replied, ‘Miss, you should’ve been more worried if I hadn’t joined up. I was heading for Barlinnie’.”

Seventeen year old Cailyn McMahon said it was wrong to compare voting and joining the army. “I cannot buy alcohol and cigarettes, I cannot watch certain movies for fear of violent content I cannot join the police force, and the list goes on. One thing I can do is join the infantry.”

“Rights should not be given at a blanket age. We need to asses the risk and benefit of each individual right and decided one by one whether welfare is at risk.”

The motion passed unamended.