Paxton student follows in her mother's political footsteps

A PAXTON girl has her foot firmly on the political ladder after beating a host of other youngsters to an important role.

Janie Orr (16) of Sunwick Farm, has recently been elected to the Scottish Youth Parliament, where she will represent the youth of the Borders as an MSYP for the region.

Janie's mum Aileen, is a long standing member of the Scottish National Party, and Janie admitted that her mum's keen involvement with all things political fuelled her interest from a young age.

"When my mum was standing in the election I got to see just what was involved in politics and I got really interested in it as a result," said Janie.

"I've always felt quite strongly about issues that affect young people and I wrote a letter to Scottish Borders Council about something when I was 11 and still at primary school. My school, Hutton Primary, was due to close so I wrote a letter saying how myself and many other people were completely against it."

Janie is a keen member of Duns Youth Club and it was a chat with one of the volunteers there and a visit by existing MSYP, Liam Beattie, to Berwickshire High School that persuaded Janie to put herself forward for election.

"We were talking about Modern Studies, a subject at school, one night at the Youth Centre and someone told me about the Youth Parliament and said I should apply. I'd heard about it before and ironically that same week Liam Beattie came to school give a talk in assembly. That's when I thought that I would really like to be a part of things, it definitely sounded like my kind of thing."

Once the idea was firmly planted in her head Janie set about officially applying for election and then went on her own campaign trail trying to canvas votes from family and friends. But there was no need for any of Janie's supporters to visit a polling station, instead they just had to log onto the SYP website and cast their vote there.

"I got an email back from someone at the Youth Parliament saying my application had been successful so after that I just kept on reminding my friends to go onto the website and vote," Janie continued.

"Obviously I wanted them to vote for me but at the same time it was just important for young people to get their say, regardless of who they wanted to represent them."

The whole process was swift and now just weeks on from her appointment Janie is gearing up for her first official engagement, a parliamentary conference in Aberdeen. And she said there were plenty of topics she would be more than happy to raise.

"I think transport is the major issue for young people in the area at the moment. The fact that youngsters from the Borders can't use their Young Scot Cards in Berwick, even though it's just over the border is really frustrating.

"You can get some pretty big discounts including up to a third off rail and bus travel so to miss out on this even though I'm in Paxton just four miles away seems stupid, particularly as Berwick is the nearest rail station. The first Scottish station is Dunbar and that's a good 30 miles away.

"A lot of my friends have also drawn my attention to the fact that there are no direct buses to Galashiels or Edinburgh from a lot places in our area. Many people prefer getting the bus somewhere as it's cheaper and more convenient for people who have limited transport."

Being such a rural location Berwickshire relies heavily on agriculture and Janie said more should be done to try and persuade young Borderers to get involved with farming.

"I'm a member of Young Farmers and I'm sick of hearing people saying that young people aren't interested in agriculture. This simply isn't true, the problem is that there's not enough done to attract young people to farming. I live on a farm and I know from this and speaking to others that it's an excellent business to be involved in and a rewarding job.

"A lot of youngsters in our area move to big cities to find work so more needs to be done to persuade them to make a home for themselves here. There should be more affordable housing in the Borders and help for first time buyers."

Janie says her role as MSYP for the Borders will see her being the 'middle man'- someone who youngsters can go to with a problem or if they feel they aren't getting any support.

"The job of the Youth Parliament is to give young people a voice and not just focus on issues that affect those living in more urban areas. I'm being thrown in at the deep end with the conference next month in Aberdeen but I'm really excited for what the role will entail and very grateful for the opportunity."