The Electoral Commission has warned that the current system excludes nearly all 16-year-olds. They can only put themselves on the voters' roll one year in advance if their 18th birthday falls in the year after 1 December. Because registration ends each October, that means only teenagers who are older than 16 years and 10 months can do so.
Most teenagers eligible to register in advance – a group known as "attainers" – are already missing. The Guardian has established that only about a third (44,000) of Scotland's 123,000 16- and 17-year-olds are included in the current local council roll.
Niall McCluskey, a Scottish advocate expert in human rights, said failing to include every 16-year-old would leave Holyrood open to legal challenge: "It's potentially discriminatory. If your general principle is that 16- and 17-year-olds ought to be able to vote, these rights have to be practical and effective. If they're not, you can fall foul of human rights law."With goodwill and not a little money, these can be resolved. But on the practical basis that the younger you are the less likely you are to exercise your ballot, the far greater problem will be persuading this new electorate to turn up in the polling station.