Scottish Independence: What will our young generation of voters decide on?

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THEY are currently in the middle of their secondary school education, but in two years’ time their voice will be just as important as 
everyone else.

The deal between Westminster and Holyrood paves the way for 16 and 17-year-olds to take part in the independence referendum in the autumn of 2014.

That means pupils who are currently 14 and 15 will have a say in what politicians on all sides agree is the most important decision in Scotland for 300 years.

In Edinburgh, there are an estimated 9500 14 and 15-year-olds expected to qualify for a vote.

Many believe younger people are more likely to back independence, but polling evidence is not 
clear.

While pollsters say 18 to 24-year-olds – currently the youngest age group eligible to vote – do seem to be slightly more in favour of independence than older voters, a recent survey found support for the SNP’s flagship policy among those who will be 16 or 17 in 2014 was just 26 per 
cent.

Grant Costello, chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament, says: “We believe it’s entirely right the young people who are the future of Scotland should have their say on Scotland’s constitutional future.

“Allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote shows society believes these young people – who can marry, work and join the army – are capable of being full active citizens.

“At a time where far too often young people are ignored or vilified by society, this is a very positive step demonstrating 16 and 17-year-olds are valuable citizens whose hopes and ideas deserve to be 
heard.”

The technicalities of getting those who will be 16 and 17 in 2014 on to the electoral register still have to be sorted out.

At the moment, young people can be included on the register if they will become 18 before the next annual update in December. But that means many 16 year-olds will not 
feature.

The rules will have to be changed so electoral registration officers can widen the normal canvass carried out for the register to include 16 and 17-year-olds.

But Scottish Government sources say this can be done without new 
legislation.

There is also the question of how many of the new voters would actually turn out, given younger people are among the least likely to vote.

Elections guru Professor John Curtice, of Strathclyde University, has warned that even if the new teenage voters do turn out, it will not make all that much difference because at most they will make up 2.5 per cent of the electorate.

Nevertheless, the decision to extend the franchise for the referendum is a historic move and will increase pressure for 16 and 17-year-olds to be given the vote in general elections as well.

Pro-independence

Luke Mackenzie, 15, from Mayfield is a fifth year pupil at Newbattle Community High

In 2014 the biggest question will be asked to all Scottish people over the age of 16. Should Scotland become an independent country? I personally believe yes.

Scotland can afford to go solo but receive a share of the UK’s national debt which will be around £80 billion or a little bit more. Yes, to some people that is a lot but the whole debt is just over

£1 trillion so Scotland would receive less than one per cent. Our currency would remain pound sterling until the Scottish people vote to use the euro. Alex Salmond is not so enthusiastic about joining the Eurozone for now due to obvious reasons such as Greece.

Some people say that a country as small as Scotland won’t survive as an independent country. There are lots of other countries that are independent such as Denmark and those in the west of Russia/Eastern Europe and have done well in all aspects. If Scotland becomes independent then one worry out of the way is the legal system. One thing Scotland has had that is different from England is laws. Many Scottish laws are different from English.Another very commonly asked question is “what will happen to the armed forces?” Scotland will have a separate army. Also they will have a seat in the EU council of ministers which would improve our chances of Scottish interests being noticed.

Scotland has always had a separate education system. It is no accident that Scottish education is the envy of much of the world and that so many great ideas and great inventions have come from Scotland.

Scotland also has Trident (four nuclear submarines) sitting on the River Clyde. What will happen to them? This is not guaranteed but the SNP plan to remove them as soon as possible if independence happens.

Overall, from the facts I have collected not only do I believe that Scotland will survive as an independent nation I believe we will thrive from it. We will have full control of our natural resources; we survive from importing and exporting. I believe as long as Scotland is governed fairly and honestly we could become a powerful nation.

Pro-union

Gemma Mcmillan, 15, from Bonnyrigg is a fourth year pupil at Lasswade High

As a student at Lasswade High School, I am totally against an independent Scotland.

First of all, the UK has been as it is for over 300 years now and we are deeply ingrained together.

Scotland will always be Scotland and we Scots will always be Scots no matter what. The world is in a downward spiral and the future for humanity is unity.

Separation will ruin our nation and turn our lives upside down with economic destruction and endless tax problems.

Secondly, there is the problem of our currency – the UK does not have to agree to Scotland keeping the pound.

If Scotland was to adopt its own currency, what would the value of money be? These are all unanswered questions.

Thirdly, there is the issue of reserved matters, benefits and social security. Benefits would be cut which mean more people would slip under the poverty line. People who genuinely aren’t able to work may be left with no money to eat and have to steal so the crime rate would increase.

If Scotland was to become independent, I think emigration would be a huge problem as citizens couldn’t afford to live in Scotland!

Scotland is too poor to finance itself as an independent country.

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, claimed that only 12 per cent of Scottish households make a net contribution

to the Scottish economy.

Scotland at the moment is already in a double dip recession; if we

go independent it is most likely it will get worse.

Another factor is debt, what will happen to the debt that the UK is in? Scotland would have to take on some debt which again means our taxes would increase.

To conclude, I think it is a bad idea and Scotland would struggle, personally I think people are too caught up in the ‘Braveheart’ idea and don’t understand the cons of being independent.

Letting 16 and 17-year-olds vote is a terrible idea as maturity is a large problem – 16-year-olds generally do not have the necessary political maturity or knowledge to cast a well informed vote.