THE UK Government should follow Scotland’s lead and back a “fair franchise” to give 16- and 17-year-olds the vote in all the country’s elections, according to the Electoral Reform Society.

A report today from the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) comes as the Welsh Government prepares to back plans to support votes at 16.

Young Scots were given the opportunity to cast their ballots in the 2014 independence referendum and can vote in local council elections.

The ERS says there will soon be a “glaring constitutional injustice”, with 16 and 17-year olds able to vote in such elections in Scotland and Wales while around a million people of the same age in England and Northern Ireland are denied that right.

Evidence from the 2014 Scottish referendum, backed by research from Austria and Norway, showed 16- and 17-year-old voters have a higher rate of turnout than those aged between 18 and 34.

Willie Sullivan, director of ERS Scotland, told The National that young Scots had overturned the previous socio-economic model.

“If you look at the socio-economic engagement across the UK and particularly England and Wales, there’s more upper-middle class kids with educated parents who are more likely to engage,” he said.

“In Scotland that’s changed and there’s no difference across the socio-economic classes, which is quite a remarkable effect. Because youngsters haven’t voted before, policy platforms have not been targeted at them and it’s got to a point where they’ve said, ‘wait a minute, this isn’t doing anything for us, let’s start to exercise some political power and get stuff ourselves’, so it’s not all idealism.”

Sullivan said that research had shown that Scotland used to be as sceptical, if not more so than the rest of the UK when it came to votes for teenagers, but in Scotland – after the youngsters had been given a chance to vote – there was much more support for it. And they went further than social media to learn more about politics and policies.

“The lesson for the UK is that even if people say they don’t support it, once they have it they really value it and it has a positive long-term effect,” he said.

“Young people who have been given the vote get their information from a lot more sources than just social media, whereas if they’re not given the vote they stick to quite narrow sources.

“It’s probably not good for democracy for people to get their information from one platform or one source, so they’ll read newspapers and they’re watch broadcasts as well. But the positive thing about social media is that it has added to those sources of information. It shouldn’t replace them because you want sources of information to be as broad as possible.”

ERS chief executive Darren Hughes said the ball was not in Theresa May’s park: “When young people help build a deep and diverse political debate, we all benefit.

“However, it would be a glaring constitutional injustice if around a million 16 and 17-year olds in England and Northern Ireland continued to be denied a vote in elections. And it remains a political inequality that 16 and 17-year olds in Scotland and Wales will be unable to vote in Westminster elections.

“This is now in Theresa May’s ballpark – and if she wants to show she is committed to a stronger and less divided country she should get behind the movement for a fairer franchise. This is about being on the right side of history and we hope the UK government now come forward with proposals for reform in line with Wales and Scotland.”