This article by Katie Macleod was first published in EVENTS newspaper (available at www.hebevents.com) on 10/01/2019 

The year 2018 was designated Scotland’s ‘Year of Young People,’ a way of combining themed events across the country as the year went on, all aiming to inspire the country through young people’s ideas, attitudes, and ambitions.

It started with a bang in the New Year, launching at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, and ended on a high too, with young people from the Western Isles attending a host of high-profile Year of Young People (YOYP) events on the mainland in November and December.

First up was the Spirit of Young People event, a special partnership between Loganair and YOYP that saw a chartered plane flying 30 young people from three island authorities – the Western Isles, Orkney, and Shetland – to Edinburgh for a parliamentary reception at Holyrood on 29thNovember.

The young people in attendance had all been nominated by friends, family, and teachers for their achievements in areas such as sports, arts, and culture. A final ten young people were selected from each authority by a panel made up of their peers and representatives from Loganair, Holyrood, and their own local authorities. From the Western Isles, the young people, aged 11-19, were chosen for their success in the local Mod, dancing, opera singing, sports, and volunteering.

On the day, after being piped onto the chartered flight – re-named ‘Spirit of Young People’ for the occasion – they arrived in Edinburgh for the parliamentary reception, where they were met by Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur, and Shetland MSP Tavish Scott, and given a tour of the Scottish Parliament building.

“The Year of the Young People has been a great opportunity to discuss how we can put the needs, views and interests of young people at the heart of public life. As it draws to a close, it is fitting that we were able to bring ten of our young people from across the Western Isles to the Scottish Parliament to recognise their achievements,” says Alasdair Allan of the event.

“I was delighted to sponsor this event and it was interesting to meet with them and to hear about the range of their achievements in communities across the islands. It was impressive to hear about the many ways in which people from the islands have achieved things, often overcoming great barriers.”

“It was great too that there was a rare chance for young people from the Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney all to meet in one place, and for our respective members of the Scottish Youth Parliament to meet each other and get MSPs to hear about the Youth Parliament’s work.”

Celebrations continued the next day at the Young Scot Awards, held in Glasgow’s SEC and Clyde Auditorium on 30thNovember, to mark the achievements of Scotland’s inspirational young people. Celebrities like Iain Stirling, famous for doing the voiceover on Love Island, Max George, a singer from The Wanted, and BBC newsreader Catriona Shearer were all there – and even posed for selfies with the young people. “They thoroughly enjoyed themselves,” says Sharon Reid, Community Learning and Development Officer at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, who accompanied the young people to the events. “They were buzzing, they really had a great time.”

Little more than a week later, more young islanders were making their way to the mainland, this time for the Voices: YOYP 2018 event in Glasgow. Held on 10thDecember at the Argyll Street Arches, the event featured workshops run by groups of young people, with the goal being to spark ideas and offer practical ways for young people to keep using their voices and making change happen even after their themed year was over.

In all, 300 young people from across Scotland were invited to attend the event, which featured everyone from young Scottish YouTube stars to X Factor celebrities and even the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. “The young people really benefited from it,” says Sharon. “We had seven young people in attendance, aged 12-21. We had young carers there, young people who have lost parents – they were all a credit to us. It boosted their confidence and self-esteem; there was a willingness and eagerness to be part of it, and to go around all the different workshops. It was a fantastic experience for them all.”