On 6th February, it will be 100 years since women got the right to vote, but if you are 18, you have only been allowed to vote for just less than half that time.
Both men and women aged 18 years and over have only had the right to vote for 49 years, since April 1969, within the lifetime of your parents and grandparents.
It took the First World War, when women did male jobs while the men were away fighting, and a long struggle by the suffragettes for many years, before the Representation of the People Act 1918 gave the vote to all men over 21, but only to women aged over 30 who also met property owning criteria.
It took another ten years before the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 gave all women over 21 the right to vote, and then a further 41 years before everyone aged 18 and over got the vote.
In Scotland, 16 and 17-year-olds were allowed to vote for the first time in the 2014 Scottish Referendum. The Scottish Parliament also passed legislation giving 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote in the Scottish and local government elections from April 2016.
Deputy First Minister, John Swinney said in 2015: “I think it is a real missed opportunity on the part of the UK government not to enable 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the EU referendum.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie said: “The right to vote comes with a responsibility to take part in our democratic debate.”
Today governments are making decisions about your life as a student in education, such as cuts to college places. If you have a job, you are liable for income tax and national insurance and other taxes such as VAT on things you buy. The EU continues to make decisions affecting all our lives, and after Brexit, Westminster and Holyrood will continue to make decisions which impact on your daily life, so casting your vote in elections is critical in making your voice count.
Once you achieve your qualifications and get a job, if you are female, you are likely to face issues such as the gender pay gap; equal pay; maternity rights if you decide to have children; childcare costs; sex discrimination and perhaps sexual harassment. In your later years you may then have issues of age discrimination and a gap in your pension contributions, for example, if you take a career break to have a family.
The Office of National Statistics 2013-2015 figures show that in Scotland there is an average life expectancy from birth of 77 years, yet as an 18-year-old female student today you have only had the right to vote for a mere 49 years in UK elections. So, regardless of your political views, it is important to exercise your right to vote in every type of election because you have only had that right for less than five decades.