With 16 year olds being allowed to vote in the recent Scottish Independence Referendum I was interested to read an article containing information (last updated on 23 September 2014) about some of the things you can do at certain ages in Scotland- this list is not exhaustive and any opinions voiced are entirely my own.
From age 2 you must:
Pay a child fare on most flights.
At 3 you can:
Start pre-school education.
At 5 you can:
Start full-time education at ‘school commencement date’ (usually in August) if 5 by ‘appropriate latest date’ (usually by end of following February. In France and Spain children do not start compulsory schooling until 6 and in Sweden compulsory schooling does not start until a child is 7.
At 7 you can:
Take money out of a National Savings Account and buy and sell National Savings Certificates.
At 8 you can:
Be found guilty of a criminal offence. There has been argument that the age of criminal responsibility should be raised to 12 but at the moment it remains at 8. In England & Wales it is age 10.
At 11 you can:
Get a free Young Scot National Entitlement Card which makes available discounts in a range of shops and offers deals on certain services and travel.
At 12 you can:
Make a Will.
Consult a solicitor and take a case to court.
Be the subject of an Anti-social Behaviour Order.
Make a freedom of information request from a local authority.
Register as an organ donor without parental/guardian consent.
At 13 you can:
Be employed to do light work specified in and subject to the local authority bylaws where you live (e.g. your local newspaper shop to do a paper round).
At 14 you can:
Get a job on a Saturday for up to 5 hours and for no more than 2 hours on school days (not before 7am or after 7pm). During school holidays you can work an overall weekly limit of 25 hours. You should not work for more than 4 hours in one day without 1 hour break.
At 15 you can:
Work up to 8 hours per day and 35 hours per week during school holidays.
At 16 you can:
Enter into a civil partnership.
Consent to lawful sexual intercourse. In Spain until recently the age of sexual consent was 13 but it has now been raised to 16. In Germany it is 14.
Apply for your own home through your local council.
Buy wine, beer, cider or perry to drink in a restaurant only with a meal.
Choose your own GP.
Leave school. If you are 16 between 1 March and 30 September you can leave after 31 May of that year and if you are 16 between 1 October and the last day of February you can leave at the start of the Christmas holidays in that school year.
Buy a National lottery ticket.
Drive a moped.
Join the armed forces, but not to train as an officer and you will also need parental consent if you are under the age of 18. You can apply from the age of 15 years 9 months. The UK is the only country in Europe and the only member of Nato which routinely recruits people under the age of 18.
Buy a pet-you can own a pet before you’re 16 but you can’t buy one yourself without a parent/guardian being present until you’re 16.
Join a ScotWest credit union.
At 17 you can:
Hold a licence to drive a car. In most other European countries it is 18. In Gibraltar it is 19.
Hold a private pilot’s licence.
At 18 you can:
Vote in a general election.
Stand for election as a local councillor, MP or MSP.
Serve as a juror.
Buy and be served alcohol. In the USA you cannot buy or be served alcohol until you are 21.
At 21 you can:
Stand in European parliamentary elections as an MEP.
Hold a licence to drive any vehicle including large goods and passenger-carrying vehicles.
Be sent to an adult prison.
Of course there are certain things under Scots law which you can do legally without any age restriction for example, choose any religion to follow, be employed as a performer, be called as a witness and make a complaint under the Equality Act. However you have to have “sufficient understanding” –that is a grasp of the consequences, a good appreciation of the issues and overall seem to be responsible-otherwise the authorities can intervene.
Certainly looking at these age “categories” is not just informative but raises questions. Are we sending our children to school too early , bogging them down with reading exercises instead of allowing them to play peacefully in a sandpit? Should the age of criminal responsibility be raised from 8 ? Is it fair to label children as criminals at such a young age? Can we justify recruiting 16 year olds to our armed forces ? Lets face it at 16 young people are banned from buying the most violent films and video games. Food for thought.