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Agenda: want to engage young people in the referendum? Here is how to do it

Engaging young people in the referendum is one of the key missions in the lead up to September 18.

As a young person, I know just how important this decision is for young people as we, more than any other group of voters, will have to live with the consequences longer than anyone else of staying in the Union or becoming independent.

While it has been accepted by both campaigns that young people are an important voter group in this referendum, the question remains: how do you engage young people? My answer is, unsurprisingly, by talking to young people in the way that young people want to be talked to.

Now, you may have an idea that this means you might need to set up your "Snapchat" (an online image sharing service) or make up a "fun" rap but you'll be pleased to know that young people are looking for the campaigns to engage in the ways they know, and that are comfortable for them.

The real issue that young people are having in engaging in the referendum is the manner and the message of the campaigns. We are in a situation where there is an information overload.

There are White Papers, strategy papers, report launches and a plethora of other information flying about and, while it is good to have a range of opinions, for many people, not just young people, there is just far too much.

What we need to see is all of those who want to genuinely engage young people to develop clear, streamlined information that is easy to understand.

This does not mean dumbing down the arguments but, simply, presenting them clearly. However, if it was all about information, engaging young people would be incredibly easy.

At the Scottish Youth Parliament, our Youth Engagement Team goes all over the country engaging young people in our impartial "Democracy Days".

We try to use youth work methods to create the spark for young people to start thinking about the referendum, to start debating it with their friends and family and, ultimately, to start thinking about how they might vote in September.

The only opinion we try to impart to those we work with is that voting, no matter which way, is important.

For the campaigns, I believe that they would have more success with engaging young people if they spent more time talking about their "offer'" to the Scottish people rather than why the other side is so terrible.

In fairness, I will give them both credit for making efforts to engage young people within their campaigns but I would perhaps advise them to start putting the young people in their campaigns together with the communications people in their campaigns. Then they might make more progress in terms of engagement.

For me, this referendum is a fantastic opportunity to engage an entire generation. Not just in the important decision that we will be faced with later this year but also to create a voting generation, young people for whom casting a ballot is no longer the laborious process that folk myth makes it out to be.

The risk that we run with this fantastic opportunity is that the referendum turns nasty, becoming about political parties and personalities rather than people. Then we would have a poisoned generation.

For all of us who believe in the power of democracy and the future of Scotland, we simply cannot allow this to happen.

We all have a duty to engage as many young people in this vote as we can, whether we are impartial, pro-Union or pro-Independence .

If we can get this right, we will have created the voter generation.

Young people want information on the referendum in clear and accessible ways. We all need to make the effort to reach out and, when we begin to put the "spark" in young people's minds, we will have the potential not just to have a successful referendum but also to create a whole generation of young people, engaged, informed and, importantly, registered to vote.

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Local government

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