ABERDEEN Independence Movement (AIM) has been successful in engaging young people and fostering a youthful group.

Recently, three executive members of AIM had the opportunity to speak to the Believe in Scotland (BIS) steering committee on this topic. In this article, we will explore the strategies employed by AIM to attract and empower young voices, as well as the challenges they face in the process.

One of the significant advantages AIM possesses is the presence of two universities in Aberdeen and a population below the average age of Scotland nationwide. With these factors at play, it would be remiss not to have young people actively involved in the movement.

However, AIM does not merely have young people involved; we have positioned young people at the centre of our group. This deliberate approach was formulated prior to AIM’s launch in 2018.

During our pre-launch phase, two of our four co-founders – Danny Forbes and myself – spent months designing the group and outlining our objectives.

We strongly believed that we should reflect the demographics of the population we represent. Promoting new and young voices was a key aspect of our mission.

To ensure these principles were ingrained from the outset, we formed a steering committee consisting of 12 individuals.

Crucially, three members of the steering group were under the age of 25, and they were given equal opportunity and empowered to contribute alongside older counterparts during our deliberations.

Josh Mennie and Theo Forbes are now “old hands” in AIM who have always offered mentorship not just to our younger members, but to all members showing an interest.

Many organisations claim to desire the involvement of young people but often their approach is focused on having young individuals show up and comply with instructions.

This approach has of course proven itself to be counterproductive and quickly alienates young people who should not be treated as mere props for photographs, but be empowered by being truly listened to when advocating their individual perspectives and accepting their time constraints are crucial.

Long, drawn-out meetings are also not conducive to engaging young individuals, who typically have busy schedules.

AIM understands this and ensures that meetings never exceed an hour in duration – and meetings are called only when needed.

When discussing AIM, I often emphasise that we are a youth-led group with a few experienced individuals – including myself – in supporting roles.

Older members have an important role to play in offering mentorship and filling in gaps that may arise due to the fluctuating commitment levels of younger members.

Acknowledging and embracing the transient nature of young people’s involvement has shown to be essential for maintaining engagement.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to witness patronising attitudes towards young activists, even if it is unintentional.

Such behaviour can be detrimental and discourages young people from participating. To attract and retain young individuals, it is imperative to listen to suggestions, respect their opinions and empower them to take the lead, especially on their own ideas.

Furthermore, it is crucial for older activists to understand that the reasons motivating young people to support independence may differ significantly from their own. Recognising and appreciating the diverse perspectives within the movement is vital for fostering unity.

It is encouraging to see the steps being taken by BIS in establishing a youth-led organisation.

During a recent BIS steering group meeting, representatives from AIM – Luke, Niamh and Cameron – took the floor and engaged in productive discussions with Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp and the steering group.

This kind of dialogue ensures that the resulting organisation will be truly youth-led, with the support and empowerment of older members rather than being led by them.

AIM recognises the invaluable contributions that young people bring to the movement and strives to actively involve and motivate them.

Regardless of age, every voice – be it 16 or 80 – deserves to be heard, and it is AIM’s responsibility to listen, embrace and empower the diverse range of young voices within our movement.

By doing so, we unlock the untapped potential of our youth and create a stronger, more inclusive movement for independence.