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Representative and useful? an empirical assessment of the representative nature and impact of the Scottish Youth Parliament

Patrikios, Stratos and Shephard, Mark Peter (2014) Representative and useful? an empirical assessment of the representative nature and impact of the Scottish Youth Parliament. Journal of Legislative Studies, 20 (2). pp. 236-254. ISSN 1357-2334

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Youth parliaments provide a channel for youths to engage positively with the political system and benefit themselves and their communities. Using survey data of former members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP), and comparing them with a variety of population data, we investigate whether the SYP is representative of the Scottish population, and whether engagement with the youth parliament has had an impact on members’ personal and skills development, and associational activities in later life. Results suggest that former members of the youth parliament are representative of the general population and that personal and skills development has been high. In addition, an overwhelming majority of former members perceive positive impacts from their experiences. However, volunteering, although higher among former members compared with the population, is disproportionately favoured by the very same social groups that are known to volunteer more. We interpret this as evidence that the SYP has some way to go towards engendering volunteerism. These results are likely to be of interest to those who are either studying or engaging the younger generation in activities that sustain a healthy democratic regime.