Orla MacLeod has taken up the role of Highland Youth Convener as of Monday 28th August 2023, becoming the 15th Youth Convener since 2007. This full-time role is a bursary position that will run for 12 months.
22-year-old Orla has recently graduated from the University of Glasgow with a degree in Scots Law. Orla has also had experience as a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament and their local youth forum in Portree supported by the High Life Highland youth service.
Amongst other projects, Orla and their Youth Forum worked with The Highland Council to re-write the anti-bullying policy for The Highland Council.
As Highland Youth Convener, Orla will provide a consistent link for elected Members and senior officials in The Highland Council. Orla was recently welcomed at their first meeting of The Highland Council’s Education Committee last week. Orla will represent Young People’s views, acting as a sounding board for youth issues in the Highlands, and attending Council and Community Planning Partner meetings.
The Highland Youth Convener works closely with Young People across the Highlands through Highland Youth Parliament, area youth forums and pupil councils in secondary schools.
Orla will maintain the links between organisations and partners already established by previous Youth Conveners and will be seeking to develop new connections with organisations across the Highlands.
Orla shared: “I am really excited to get started with what is such a unique and interesting role which allows me to be the full-time voice of Young People in the Highlands.
“Over the course of the year, I’ll be representing their views to The Highland Council and other organisations and partners to allow these groups to incorporate Young People’s views into their work, and to ensure Young People have their voices heard in a meaningful way.
“I plan to approach the issue of mental health in a way that recognises the long-term problems which cannot be immediately changed, and instead focuses on improving the way Young People access mental health services within the confines of current care provision.
“My goal for the year is to work on building Young People’s confidence in advocating for themselves when accessing support for their mental health.
“Additionally, I plan to focus on LGBT+ issues – in particular, LGBT+ bullying which regrettably continues to present as a problem. I want to meet with groups of young LGBT+ people so that I can understand what more can be done on this issue and how they might be helped to cope with the effects of such bullying.
“Ultimately, I am keen to hear from as many Young People as possible throughout the Highlands to ensure that I am representing their views as faithfully as possible.
“Having grown up in a rural area of the Highlands, I am really looking forward to tackling the challenges that may arise and of course, working with Young People to make the Highlands a supportive, inclusive and positive place for them to live in and to be proud to grow up in this incredible area.”
Raymond Bremner, Leader of the Highland Council, added: “The Highland Youth Convener post is unique in Scotland and plays an important role in helping us better understand and engage with issues affecting our Young People – so I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Orla to the job.
“The Highland Council have recently adopted a Children and Young People’s Charter and it is more important than ever before that we not only hear the views of Young People but get Young People involved in decision making processes that could have an impact on their future.
“I am sure that Orla will find the role very rewarding and will enjoy becoming an active and persuasive champion who will have a direct input into our policy and decision-making process. On behalf of all my fellow councilors, welcome and we look forward to working with you.”
Orla recently attended their first Highland Council Education Committee Meeting, and was warmly welcomed by Committee Chairman and Skye Councillor John Finlayson.
Councillor Finlayson said: “I was delighted to welcome Orla to their first Education Committee, and it is fantastic to see a Young Person from Skye in post as this year’s Youth Convener.
“I know Orla has many plans for the year ahead, which the Education Committee will also hear about in November. As well as wishing Orla well, I also look forward to working with them in representing the views of Young People from across Highland in many different forums.”
Mark Tate, Chair of High Life Highland, concluded: “The Youth Convener plays a pivotal role in representing Young People in different settings and at various levels of decision making to ensure the views of Young People are heard across the Highlands.
“Orla will be working alongside our Youth Development Team, and I look forward to seeing them come together providing support and guidance to bring the new remit and structure to life over the coming year.”