Scotland’s Teenagers Participate in Referendum
Haley Macray, Veritas Web & Features Editor
Scotland has voted not to secede from the United Kingdom by a margin of 55% to 45%, after nearly two years of rallying for and against the cause. It was not only Scottish adults who played a major role in the referendum; for the first time Scottish teenagers under the age of 18 were permitted to vote.
As voters headed to the voting booths on September 18, a final poll showed yes and no votes to be nearly tied. It would not be until the actual votes were counted that a clear cut answer could be made as to whether Scotland would leave the United Kingdom or not. Friday morning results were announced and the naysayers were victorious.
Scotland lowered the legal voting age from 18 to 16 in order to allow its teenagers a say in their country’s fate and future. It was thought by some that these teens would not take their voting privileges seriously and vote for independence without thinking. This was not the case according to Jan Eichhorn, a professor of social policy at the University of Edinburgh, who said that Scottish teenagers were more likely to vote against secession.
“Overall, they are informed. They have a slightly different way of getting at information. But there’s no evidence to suggest that they’re less capable than adults of voting, from a research point of view,” said Eichhorn in a National Public Radio article.
Although teenagers did not make up a large percentage of the population who voted, if Eichhorn is correct, maybe the teenage bracket of voters did make a major impact in the decision, if not through votes, then possibly through influence of their peers and fellow Scots.
“Once I’d voted I felt happy. It’s good that younger people are allowed to vote. It’s our future we’re talking about here.” said Brandyn Murphy, a Scottish teenager, as part of The Guardian’s coverage of the referendum.
The participation seen with Scotland’s teenage voters opens up the question, should the legal voting age be permanently lowered in Scotland and other countries?
Lowering the legal voting age from 18 to 16 is only a two year difference in age and maturity. Most students and teenagers are exposed to politics daily through school, social media, and other platforms. Some say that if teenagers are willing and capable of making an informed political decision then it could make sense for them to have the right to vote.
On the other hand, some members of this age bracket may not be prepared to make such a weighty decision at the age of 16. Some may argue that two years can make a large difference in maturity and intelligence. Two years can be the equivalent of two levels in high school in which a student could increase their knowledge of politics and the economy.
The overall decision being made through voting, as seen in Scotland, can have a huge affect on these teenagers. If it is going to affect them some how in the future then many say it makes sense that they should have a say in the matter, but at the same time others believe some teenagers might not be ready to hold such a large responsibility at that age.
The Scottish referendum shows that a portion of teenagers are fully capable of making a well informed, mature decision. From reports, they participated in the vote respectfully and most of all they cared about what answer they were making whether it was “yes” or “no.”
Teenagers these days are well informed of their government and surroundings whether they mean to be or not. Not only are they informed, they are opinionated.
Teenagers 16 years old and up can be capable of being just as educated about politics as their elders. If willing to research their opinions and educate themselves about political decisions, many believe teens should not be held back from making choices regarding their government, country, and most of all their future.