Cabinet Secretary for Justice opens leadership conference for around 150 young people in Stirling

16 June 2014

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Image: Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill MSP with Ian McLaughlan, Chief Executive of Youth Scotland and the young people from the National Advisory Group who helped organise the event.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill MSP opened the first annual Young People Taking the Lead Conference at the weekend, which saw 146 young people from across Scotland descend on Stirling University for the two-day event. Featuring around 30 workshops, a marketplace, networking and entertainment, the conference culminated with a Question Time style referendum debate for young people.

Youth Scotland in partnership with Education Through Cashback organised the conference, which gave young people the opportunity to develop new leadership skills, meet new people and build their confidence and abilities. Young people were closely involved in the planning and organisation of the event, with a focus on sport and decision-making.

The weekend was part of the Young People Taking the Lead project, which is funded by Cashback for Communities and aims to involve young people as decision makers and influencers in their local communities.

As part of Youth Scotland's commitment to ensuring young people are engaged with the upcoming independence referendum there was also a debate with representatives from Yes Scotland and the Better Together campaigns. Facilitated in partnership with BEMIS Scotland and A&M Training, the debate gave young people the opportunity to ask questions to both campaigns and raise the issues that mattered to them.

Better Together panellists were Margaret Curran, MP for Glasgow East and Anas Sarwar, MP for Glasgow Central and deputy leader of Scottish Labour. Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP and Carolyn Leckie were in attendance from the Yes Scotland campaign.

The panellists were grilled on a range of subjects by the young people attending, with child poverty and equalities important topics of discussion. At the end of the debate, 100 young people's votes were cast with results showing no at 38%, yes at 37% and not sure at 17%.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said:

"I am delighted to be at today's conference and I am proud of the fact that Cashback funding has made a real contribution in releasing the talents of young Scots across the country, allowing them to make hugely positive contributions to their communities.

 "The drive and commitment on show today is an excellent example of this Scottish Government initiative working to its full potential - taking money from criminals who seek to cause misery and putting it back into projects and schemes to allow our communities to flourish.

 "Since 2008, over £74 million of money seized through the Proceeds of Crime Act has been put to excellent use through CashBack for Communities, funding over 1.5 million activities and opportunities for young people."

Nicola, aged 19 and a member of the National Advisory Group who helped to plan the event said:

"The weekend has been amazing and it was great to see so many young people wanting to 'Take the Lead' and develop new skills to help them with leadership skills. The workshops were buzzing with excitement and the referendum debate did nearly set the heather on fire!  We've already started planning for 2015 and there's plenty opportunity for young people in a youth group in Youth Scotland's membership to sign up to an Advisory Group to help organise it."

Paul McIlvenny, YPTTL Senior Development Worker at Youth Scotland, said:

"The Young People Taking the Lead Conference is a fantastic opportunity for young leaders and volunteers from across Scotland to come together to learn, share and take part in a variety of workshops to enhance their skills and experience to take the lead. 

"The young people have been heavily involved in the organisation of the conference and their attendance and engagement with workshops and referendum debate over the weekend has shown just how much of a success it's been. We look forward to more Young People Taking the Lead events in the future to give young people more ways to develop their leadership skills."