College conversations continue at Newbattle Abbey

Kelly Drummond, Marion Docherty and Danielle Rowley MP.
Kelly Drummond, Marion Docherty and Danielle Rowley MP.

The third Newbattle Conversations event was held recently, discussing young people and politics.

Midlothian MP Danielle Rowley (Lab) promised to continue fighting to bridge the gap between young people and politics during the wide-ranging discussion at Newbattle Abbey College.

She was joined by former Newbattle student Kelly Drummond to discuss Engaging Young People in Politics - and told the audience why she was campaigning to give the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds in all UK elections.

Ms Rowley, who is the youngest Labour MP at 28, chairs an all-party parliamentary group at Westminster on Votes at 16.

She said. “Young people have a particular view of politicians as clever and posh and mostly white men.

“It makes me sad to think that is their view and that’s why there is perhaps a divide – and I want to use my time to challenge that.”

Kelly Drummond described how she had a very negative view of all politicians growing up.

“Everyone I knew felt they were all the same and my views of politics in general were very negative,” she said.

“But I had lots of opinions of what was wrong and right.”

Ms Drummond started taking more of an interest in politics when she studied it as part of a course at Newbattle.

“It was like maths is to lots of people – I found it quite scary. It was really through history and examples of people power that I started to understand politics better.

“And when I visited the Scottish Parliament I was really hooked. Once your eyes are open to politics, you can’t close them again.”

There was a wide-ranging discussion around social media as a force for good and ill, with politicians able to speak more directly to voters but a real danger of “echo chambers” where people’s views were entrenched and “shades of grey were not considered”.

Newbattle Abbey College principal Marian Docherty said: “This was an excellent event with two very impressive speakers and a stimulating debate.

“A worthy part of the Newbattle Conversations series as we celebrate the part the college site played in drafting the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320.”

The 700th anniversary of the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration will be celebrated with an international academic conference at Newbattle in April 2020.