A CLYDEBANK teenager says that campaigning for suicide awareness training and better mental health provision for young people are the high points of her time representing the area at the Scottish Youth Parliament.

Hayley Paku was just 14 when she was elected as the Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYP) for Clydebank and Milngavie in November 2019.

Her term of office comes to an end on Tuesday, November 23 – and while she looks back with pride at the things she’s done in the past two years, Hayley isn’t quite finished campaigning on behalf of the area’s young people just yet.

The Clydebank High pupil, who succeeded Shaun Cairns as the area’s MSYP, said: “My manifesto was focused on mental health and support available for young people.

“This passion led to me taking forward a motion to the Scottish Youth Parliament’s 70th sitting: ‘The Scottish Youth Parliament believes that there is a need for suicide awareness training in Scottish high schools’.

“I introduced this motion with a clear action plan that led me to receive a 99 per cent support rate from other MSYPs. I used this in order to lead my actions for the duration of my term, ensuring mental health was my main focal point.”

Hayley’s two-year term also saw her become one of the first members of the West Dunbartonshire Youth Council (WDYC) and to becoming the fledgling body’s chair last year.

There, too, mental health was at the forefront of her work, leading a 10-week online campaign, Small Talk, and creating a booklet distributed among the area’s young people giving them advice and telling them where they could turn for help – a vital source of information as Covid struck and plunged the country into lockdown.

She has also spent her two years as an MSYP taking the views of young people to councillors, council officials and MSPs, working with the Scottish Government on topics such as FGM (female genital mutilation) and on how young people were affected by the pandemic.

Hayley also hosted “anti-stigma” workshops in October during Challenge Poverty Week, tackling prejudice and promoting awareness of the local food poverty picture.

On top of that she was nominated for two prizes - as a positive role model at the National Diversity Awards and as a local “lockdown hero”.

“I could speak about all the events I took part in during my term,” Hayley added, “but we’d be here all day.

“SYP benefitted me immensely and I wish all the best to the next MSYP of Clydebank.”

Hayley’s social media accounts will cease to be affiliated with the SYP, and her SYP email address will be removed next week, but she says she will remain an active member of WDYC and will continue working on projects and campaigns to benefit the area’s young people.