Give us votes at 16, say young people
The long run-up to the Scottish Independence Referendum energised people as no other political topic has done in decades.
This has been particularly true for young people, many of whom made history on Thursday by being able to vote at 16 and 17. And their teachers hope the experience will leave the “legacy” of a lifetime of political engagement.
Virtually all the Anderson High School pupils eligible to vote for the first time did so, according to head teacher Valerie Nicolson.
She said that 301 pupils, almost exactly one third of the school roll, which on Thursday had been exactly 900, intended to vote.
Ms Nicolson said: “There was an air of excitement around the school. It was difficult to find anyone who wasn’t voting.”
Brae High School head teacher Colin Kirkness said: “There was definitely a real buzz around the school. A lot of pupils had got up early and voted before they got the bus to school. [The issue] has had a real impact and they have taken their responsibility very seriously.” He added that it would leave a legacy of interest in politics.
As first-time voters, four pupils from AHS and four from Brae were invited to witness the referendum count at Clickimin.
Ms Nicolson said so many had wanted to go that names had to be drawn from a hat.
Split between yes and no voters, the young people had prepared for the event by doing research, and were exercised by different topics, from oil to the currency to fish quotas. All agreed they felt “excited and nervous” before the result was announced.
Jodie Sandison, 17, AHS, spoke for all the pupils when she said it was a “privilege” to vote, and Jack Murphy, 17, from Brae, said they hoped the fact that they were taking it so seriously would lead to 16 and 17-year-olds being able to vote in other UK elections.
This is also the aspiration of 18-year-old Kaylee Mouat, member of the Scottish Youth Parliament.
Kaylee, who was present at the count, said: “I’ve voted before but this is the first time I’ve cared about voting. The SYP is politically neutral, but for the past few months we’ve been publicising voter engagement.
“I’m thrilled to see such a high turnout [of young people]. The only way we can push for votes for 16 and 17-year-olds is through evidence. We want votes at 16 in all elections.”
List MSP Jean Urquhart of the yes campaign said she too had been encouraged by the enthusiasm, and knowledge, of young first-time voters. Mrs Urquhart said: “People are looking at politics differently now. I’ve been talking to teenagers in [Glasgow’s] Easterhouse about the Schengen agreement. If you’re not engaged you won’t vote.”