Forres Academy students question local Moray Council election candidates at Tolbooth hustings
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THIRTEEN teenagers formed a panel to question local election candidates at Forres Tolbooth.
Outgoing Moray councillors George Alexander and Lorna Creswell attended the hustings ahead of the election on May 5, which gave Forres Academy Modern Studies students the opportunity to ask ward 8 candidates Scott Lawrence (SNP), Kathleen Robertson (Conservative), Paul McBain (Conservative), James Hynman (Labour) and Shaun Moat (Independent) about the local issues that matter most to them - Green candidate Draeyk van der Horn was unable to attend.
Fifth year pupil Ben Stewart organised the event with the help of Cllr Creswell.
He said: “It was a good way to get young people involved in politics and talking about issues they believe need changed. I hoped that by me organising it, the young attendees would be more comfortable raising problems that effect them. It went really well. The turnout was decent and the answers we got from candidates well articulated.”
The audience was made up of 16-18-year-olds, eligible to vote in Scottish Parliament and council elections. Ben discussed the hustings with them afterwards.
He said: “Generally we were most impressed by Mr Lawrence and Mr Hynam. Many felt that Mr Lawrence genuinely tried to understand the issues put forward. Many also felt that Mr Hynam was honest with heartfelt answers.”
Ben asked a series of questions giving candidates roughly the same time to answer. After allowing introductions, these also included topics such as education, emigration from Moray and bullying issues at Forres Academy.
Mr McBain enjoyed the opportunity to connect with some of the town’s youngest voters.
He said: “The main topics were what my priorities will be if I’m elected, namely: education and health and social care. Our students voices should be heard more - and we must listen to and learn from this age group.”
Fellow Tory candidate Kathleen Robertson also enjoyed the event.
She said: “The audience were passionate on issues that matter to them. It’s important for Moray councillors to listen to young people.”
Mr Lawrence appreciated the chance to get his message across.
He said: “I was impressed by the way the young voters voiced their opinion. I took on board what they said, particularly with regard to their learning environment and how it could be improved. I’m passionate about young people being part of the local community and I’m always willing to listen to them. This group was passionate and knowledgeable about politics and I’m glad the SNP has given them the opportunity to voice their opinions by voting”
Mr Hynam also feels strongly that young people need to be listened to.
He said: “The event went very well. It was particularly pleasing to see young people taking an interest in local matters and getting the chance to express their opinions.”
Finally, Mr Moat said: “Hats off to Ben for organising the hustings.
“It was great to see so many young people attend and actively take part. The event did raise concerns around Forres Academy - if elected I would like to work with the school, teachers and pupils to address the issues.”
Cllr Creswell thought what Ben pulled together so quickly was “amazing”.
He said: “The questions were really good and whoever gets elected will likely find addressing those issues challenging. They won’t understand till they are in!”
Cllr Alexander felt the first half of the three hour hustings was interesting.
He said: “The final few questions drifted into a series of complaints about operational matters within Forres Academy.
“The candidates spoke well but, whichever four get elected, they are about to embark on a very steep learning curve. Being a councillor is a full-time job for a part time wage, if the job is done properly. Unfortunately not all elected members give the job the time it requires.”
Forres Area Forum have organised another hustings event at Forres Town Hall on Monday, April 25 at 6.30pm for the wider community to question the local candidates.