Scottish referendum: End of the apathetic legacy?

Polling Station Sign

Ninety percent of 16 and 17 year olds in Scotland have registered to vote, showing the age group is anything but apathetic.

Although the actual voter turnout of the referendum is still unknown, figures by the Electoral Commission show an incredibly high amount of young people are intending to vote, with an average of 90% across the country. It is the first time 16 year olds have been able to vote anywhere in the UK, and these figures show real promise for those campaigning for them to be given the vote in general elections.

Out of around 6,209 young people in Aberdeenshire, over 95% have suggested they intend to vote,rising to just over 96% in the Western Isles. When compared to the turnout of the 18-24 group in previous referendums and elections, the intensity of political engagement in Scotland over this issue becomes clear. In the AV referendum of 2011, 67% of this age group failed to vote. Only 39% of the 18-24 group voted in the Welsh devolution referendum in the same year. Fewer than half voted in the 2010 general election.

However, although Salmond campaigned strongly for the referendum voting age to be lowered to 16, it might not benefit the Yes camp quite as much as they would like. A Youth debate survey found only 45% side with the Yes camp.

The seemingly low levels of political apathy in Scotland show, in my view, that young people are interested in politics, but they need different methods of engagement. Events such as the Big, Big Debate in Glasgow, which was exclusively for 16 and 17 year old, as well as discussions in schools & sixth forms, provide a way for issue based politics, as opposed to divisional party politics. This view is held by Louise Cameron, chairwoman of the Scottish Youth Parliament, who declared the referendum a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to make sure Scotland's young people are heard.

Regardless of today's outcome, young people in Scotland will have had the chance to shape their country for generations to come- and in doing so, may inspire greater political involvement in next year's election and in years to come.