We are in support of the SNP Youth motion to be debated at Conference on Sunday 8 October, “Raising the minimum age of military recruitment to 18”.

The continued enlistment of under-18s into the British armed forces is a historical anachronism which has no place in a professional modern military or nation which respects the rights and welfare of its young people.

Despite repeated broad claims by the Ministry of Defence, there is no evidence that premature enlistment enhances the educational or career prospects of young people. All statistical evidence, including that published in the RUSI Journal in December 2016, points to the contrary. The MoD itself admits that its main motivation for continuing to enlist teenagers is to fill the shortfall of adult recruits for the most dangerous, least popular, mostly poorly paid Army jobs.

As a collective of organisations and individuals concerned with the well-being of young people, we urge SNP members to vote in favour of the SNP Youth motion without amendment. The campaign to raise the enlistment age to 18 years is widely supported by the overwhelming majority of voters of all political affiliations across Scotland and the rest of the UK. It is in line with the repeated recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Children and Young People's Commissioner for Scotland and his counterparts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the standard recruitment policy of two-thirds of states worldwide.

We have a responsibility to respect the rights and needs of young people. This means striking the right balance between supporting their growing social and political autonomy throughout their adolescent years while postponing until later those decisions and responsibilities which have the potential to cause long term, serious harm. Deliberately ignoring the clear evidence of harm caused by enlisting vulnerable adolescents into the armed forces’ most dangerous roles is negligent, not progressive.

We urge SNP members to join us in calling for an end to the military exploitation of some of the most vulnerable young people in the land.


Child Soldiers International, Director of Programmes, Rachel Taylor

Children in Scotland, Chief Executive, Jackie Brock

Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights), Director, Juliet Harris

Children England, Chief Executive, Kathy Evans

Children’s Rights Alliance for England, Director, Louise King

Children in Wales 

Plaid Ifanc (Plaid Youth)

Medact, Executive Director, Sophie Neuburg

National Justice & Peace Network, Chair, Anne Peacey

General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, Chief Officer, Derek McAuley

ForcesWatch, Douglas Beattie

Veterans for Peace, Founder, Ben Griffin

Network for Peace, Co-ordinator, Claire Poyner

Become, Chief Executive, Natasha Finlayson