Youngest ever MSP Ross Greer promises to fight for youth issues in parliament


On the first day of the new parliament, CommonSpace spoke to its youngest new member

ROSS GREER, Scottish Green MSP for the West of Scotland, has already made an impact on parliament by making a socialist fist as he made the legally required vow of royal allegiance.

CommonSpace spoke to Greer about his role as Scotland's youngest ever nationally elected politician – and why he believes young people should play a greater role in political leadership.

How does it feel to be a newly elected MSP?

"I think this is definitely the most interesting turn my life has taken so far. Most of my friends are actually graduating this month, so I've taken a very different route."

You're the youngest MSP in the history of the Scottish Parliament. Did you see that coming?

"I think we knew when I was selected that the odds were there probably wouldn't be another candidate younger than me. There were no other candidates younger than me in a winnable position. There were some 18/19 year olds. Some fantastic candidates, but further down their parties lists."

Do you think you bring a certain experience or outlook given your age?

"Absolutely. Parliament is supposed to represent all of Scottish society. We're not there yet with gender. We're not there yet with the ethnic diversity of Scots. We're not there yet in so many regards.

"One of the areas we're not there yet is age. Scotland's young people play an absolutely crucial role in society. Not as this cliched 'young people are the future' concept. We've empowered 16 and 17 year olds to vote. The idea that we can't have someone here who's 21 in the parliament would just be ridiculous.

"Hopefully I can prove that young people are capable decision makers, and can make a significant contribution."

A big focus of the Green campaign was on inequality, and issues like housing and taxation. When you consider age and inequality, are there parts of the economic life that hit young people particularly hard?

"Young people have had their futures absolutely ruined by circumstances completely out with their control – generations that came before them that created an unsustainable economy then crashed that economy.

"We've now got a generation of people my age who don't know when or if they'll be able to retire, if they'll have a pension worth the name at that point, if they'll ever be able to own their own home, if they'll stay in private rented accommodation that they can't afford that's driving them into poverty. Their student debts will cripple them for decades to come.

"These are all completely avoidable circumstances. We can implement rent controls. We can work on relief of student debt. We can rebalance our economy so it's no longer based on housing bubbles that eventually burst.

"There's so much we can do. I think young people need to be there leading the charge on that. We're the ones that have suffered for circumstances that we had nothing to do with causing."

Has anything fun or memorable happened so far?

"Lots of new MPs at Westminster had fantastic antidotes about how antiquated and traditional to the point of ridiculous their new institution was. Holyrood's obviously not like that.

"One of the most remarkable things so far is that there's 51 new members, which is the largest intake ever – half of which are conservatives. The remarkable thing has been how utterly non-partisan the first week here has been. New members have been going through an induction programme together and been socialising together.

"It's been a very relaxed and informal atmosphere. It sounds like a silly cliche, but that's not what you get in all parliaments. It's probably not what we'll get for the full five years, but with a minority government there's going to have to be far more cooperation politically between us, and hopefully what that fosters is much more positive personal relationships."

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Picture courtesy of Scottish Parliament TV