“Hand’s up if you’re hopeful about the future?”
One of the best aspects of being an MSP is visiting schools and speaking to young people about politics. I quite often spend an hour with a Modern Studies class talking about the Parliament and how it works.
It was in this beautiful brand new school on Friday in a beautiful part of the world that a class of S3 pupils left me a little broken hearted.
Just three kids in the class were hopeful about the future. The rest were worried, anxious, almost fearful.
They were worried about having a job, Trump, the rise of ISIS and terrorism. One even said the world felt very divided. If the next generation can’t find reasons to be cheerful, what hope is there for the rest of us?
Yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon announced a major programme of events for Scotland’s Year of Young People in 2018. There was me hoping that every year was the year to think about the next generation, but I’ll take what I can get.
The year is supposed to shine a light on the amazing contribution young people make to Scotland but maybe we should stop and spend a bit more time asking ourselves if we’re doing enough by them?
Still in Scotland today one in four children grow up living in poverty. The chances of succeeding at school still depend far too heavily on their postcode. Kids in care are still more likely to go to jail than university.
The UK has just voted to leave the European Union and with it goes their rights to travel freely and work across the European continent. Their parents are saddled with debt having spent nearly 10 years now with low interest rates making credit cards cheap. Savings have fallen through the floor. The cost of almost everything is rising.
The Prime Minister of the day has only marginally more charisma than a robot and the government that she presides over is a laughing stock at home and overseas.
The US, that nation of dreams, lives with the nightmare of a cartoonesque president who spent most of the weekend slagging off the waistline of his North Korean counterpart.
It’s a miserable state of affairs so it’s little wonder young people are miserable to.
The Year of Young People is a welcome innovation but it’s a far cry from the antidote we all need. The truth is you can’t manufacture a false sense of hope, it has to be heartfelt and meaningful.
Let’s use the Year of Young people as a wakeup call to reenergise our hope and dedicate to delivering a better future for our young people.
This column first appeared in the Daily Record newspaper on the 14th of November 2017.