Three young Borderers were elected to the Scottish Youth Parliament on Friday, March 29, at Scottish Borders Council headquarters in Newtown.
Isabel Headon, will represent the Midlothian South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale constituency, while Rhys Pearce and Tanya Thomson serve the Ettrick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire constituency for the next two years.
While Borderers aged 12-25 had been voting for their preferred candidates between March 6-15, all three gained their places in an uncontested election.
Rhys, who is 14, from Hawick, and attends Loretto Senior School in Edinburgh, said he was slightly worried that no other young people were interested in running, but he was sure that youths remained interested in politics.
He told us: “If you look at the number of young people who took part in the climate change strikes, there are people who want to be heard.
“I think young people may think they have not been heard over Brexit, which may have caused some apathy.
“Over the next two years, I hope to get more young people interested in politics and taking it seriously, but I think that requires them being taken seriously in turn.”
Tanya, 18, also from Hawick, is taking on her second term.
She said: “I’m hoping that Rhys, Isabel and I can make a real difference to the lives of young people in the Borders.”
She said that the issues she will be highlighting were: “the importance of awareness around mental health, the lack of accessibility in terms of transport down here in the rural areas, and that education needs to be inclusive for all ... it’s so important in young peoples’ lives.”
Isabel, from Innerleithen, is 15, and she also has issues of her own she wants to look into.
She said: “I’ll be looking at disability equality and access in the Borders.”
She added: “I think in the extraordinary times we are living in, more young people are finding politics interesting compared to a number of years ago.”
Councillor Carol Hamilton, the council’s executive member for children and young people, congratulated the trio on their election.
She added: “They are to be commended for their commitment to putting themselves forward for this unique and privileged position and I am sure they will make the most of the opportunity it gives them to raise awareness about issues affecting both their own lives and those of the people they represent.
“I wish them well as they take up their new roles and look forward to working with them and seeing the contribution they make as MSYPs, both at a local and national level.”
Mrs Hamilton also recognised the contribution made by the outgoing MSYPs – Alex Morgan. Lucy Lauder and Georgia Pritchard, as well as Sanna Aziz and Tanya Thomson, who stood down in 2018 to go to university.
She said: “Our thanks go to Alex, Lucy, Georgia, Sanna and Tanya for everything they achieved while they held the role of MSYPs, with a special mention for Tanya who chose to stand again and has just been successfully re-elected.
“They are all to be commended for the outstanding way in which they represented the children and young people of the Borders and made such a positive contribution to the Scottish Youth Parliament.”
Alex and Georgia were both at the declaration to lend their support to the new members.
Georgia, 16, from Jedburgh, said: “I really enjoyed it! A lot of experience gained, and my self-confidence is through the roof now.
“It’s good to get the chance to represent where we come from because we are so rural, it’s difficult to get our voices heard.”
And Alex, from Tweeddale, who is now 17, said: “It is a great learning experience. You learn more about how you can actually change things.
“You can actually make a change and make a difference.”
Neither of the two girls are remotely interested in a career in politics – as they have an interest in science – but it doesn’t stop them being interested in the things that affect them.
Asked where they stood on Brexit, both said they would have rather have remained in Europe.
Alex said: “I would stay ... it’s just been a complete and utter catastrophe and a mess.
“I just watch what’s going on and wonder what’s happening.”
And Georgia had an interesting offer for European states.
She said: “We should just do the British thing and apologise, and just have a cup of tea.”