Scotland young voters cool on independence

By Robert Leslie ,AFP

EDINBURGH — Young Scots aged 16 and 17 are getting the vote for the first time in Scotland’s independence referendum, but the selfie generation looks set to defy expectations by mostly rejecting separation. First Minister Alex Salmond’s Scottish National Party (SNP), which is spearheading the campaign, fought hard to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 for the Sept. 18 ballot, in anticipation of a youth bounce. Both sides have run slick campaigns on Facebook and other social media to get as many young people involved as possible. At least 80 percent of those eligible have registered to vote. But while most teenagers might be expected to disagree with their parents, opinion polls suggest their views on independence from Britain are in line with older Scots, most of whom look set to vote No. “People my age are very switched on and do want to listen to the issues but they’re engaged with a politics that isn’t about slander, the smear and the scaremongering,” said Robbie Nicol, 16, a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament campaigning in an Edinburgh shopping center to get teenagers to register. “They’re wanting to be involved in the politics that engages with them and talks positively about the issues, constructively rather than mud-slinging from both sides.” Overall, most opinion polls currently give the pro-union camp 45-50 percent of the vote and put the pro-independence side in the range of 35-39 percent. Under-18s are thought to make up around three percent of those who can cast their ballots. Some 52 percent in that age bracket favor Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom, according to a study by Edinburgh University researchers published in June, which has been one of the few to focus on young voters. This compared to 29 percent of teenagers backing independence and 19 percent undecided. Louise Macdonald, chief executive of youth charity Young Scot, said the referendum was “an incredibly important moment” for 16- and 17-year-olds. “I would defy anyone to meet young people in Scotland and feel that they’re apathetic — they’re absolutely not,” she said.