The issue was one of the big sticking points in talks between the Westminster and Edinburgh governments, with London continuing to say it was opposed as recently as last month.
In the end, as in much else in the negotiations, Alex Salmond got his way, but is it as radical as it sounds?
The Isle of Man, the first part of the British Isles to give women the vote in 1881, extended the franchise to 16-year-olds for the Manx Parliament, or Tynwald, in 2006.
Jersey lowered the voting age to 16 for election of senators and deputies in 2007.That year, Austria became the first – and so far last – member of the EU to have votes at 16, aligning it with Brazil, Cuba and Nicaragua.
In Scotland, 16-year-olds voted in the first health-board elections in 2010, and are eligible to vote in elections to the Crofting Commission.
In fact, in the referendum negotiations, it became clear Holyrood already had the power to give 16-year-olds the vote in 2014.
That's why the "Section 30 Order" devolving the power to hold a legally watertight referendum to Holyrood doesn't even mention the voting age.
But what about the accusation of cynicism?
Rather than being last-minute converts, the SNP has been campaigning on the issue since the dog days of opposition, and was a founder member of the Votes at 16 campaign in 2003.
Nor is the SNP isolated on the subject.The Liberal Democrats adopted votes for 16 as party policy in 2001, and included it in their last two General Election manifestos.
It somehow failed to appear in the 2010 Coalition Agreement with the Conservatives.
Some Labour peers also wanted it for last year's referendum on the alternative vote system (AV).
There are just under four million adult voters in Scotland, and about 44,000 registered attainers – 17-year-olds who will turn 18 while the current electoral register is in force.
Assuming another 44,000 or so 16-year-olds, that would give a total electorate of 4.05m, of whom around 90,000 would be new teenage voters, although numbers could rise if there was a young voter registration drive.
According to Professor John Curtice, psephologist extraordinaire at Strathclyde University, that would mean that on the day of the referendum, 2.2% to 2.7% of voters will be 16 or 17.
Would they make a big difference?
"Undoubtedly not," he says ... or maybe, in a cliffhanger.
If there was around half a percent between the Yes and No votes of the adult population, then people aged 16 and 17 would decide the outcome. Short of a knife-edge result, this cohort is very unlikely to make an impact, he says. Nor is there any proof that these new voters would vote as a bloc, Nationalist or otherwise.
The one poll of teenagers on the subject, run last month by the Mail on Sunday, suggested their views broadly mirrored those of over-18s.
Just over one-quarter wanted independence, while more than half wanted to retain the Union.
So the pressure is on the Yes Scotland campaign and the SNP to win over these new voters.
As a first step, Yes Scotland's advisory board is to co-opt one member aged 16 or 17 before the end of the year to help tailor campaign messages to their peers.
Jennifer Dempsie, Yes Scotland's deputy marketing director, said the campaign wanted to inspire and engage young people both online through social media, and through local events and activities, youth networks and student groups.
"The bottom line is you have to have fun for this campaign. We have to creatively inspire people. If there's no fun it's going to be a really long two years."
The pro-union Better Together camp says it is thinking on the same lines, but detail is scarce.
A spokesman said the messages would be the same, but the medium and language would be different, with more emphasis on Facebook and Twitter.
However, the SNP may regret what they wished for.
The nitty-gritty of registering all those who will be 16 and 17 on the day of the referendum – registering some while they are still minors at 15 – could be a major headache.
Under existing electoral law, only those aged 16 years and 10 months will make it on to the standard electoral register for October 2014, meaning an entirely new and separate register must be created for younger people.
That responsibility, as Scotland Office Minister David Mundell stressed this week, falls entirely on the SNP Government and the SNP-held Scottish Parliament, which have less experience of electoral law than Westminster.
The Scottish Assessors Association (SAA), the body representing the council staff who must record the new voters, recently warned there could be "significant canvass and registration issues that would require to be addressed".
The Electoral Management Board for Scotland, which may well run the referendum, agrees.
Brian Byrne, chair of the SAA's Electoral Registration Committee, says: "I don't see any major concerns with it, as long as we get legislation which is clear and unambiguous and early. That will help."
If the SNP Government pulls it off there could be other longer-term consequences.
Even if the vote is No, the referendum will mark the political awakening of tens of thousands of teenagers who may thank the SNP with their support in future elections.
There could also be other electoral fallout.
In strict legal terms, each referendum is an island, created through bespoke legislation without implications for other votes.
However, in practice, it will be difficult to revert to a more restrictive franchise.
And if people can vote at 16, logically they should be able to stand for election at 16.
When the minimum age to stand for parliament was lowered to 18 in 2006 (incredibly, it had been stuck at 21 since 1695), the rationale was that voting and candidacy ages should be made equal.
So votes at 16 could in theory lead to a smattering of teenage MPs, MSPs and councillors.
Willie Sulivan, Scottish director of the Electoral Reform Society, said: "If it works well – if 16 and 17 -year-olds are engaged and turn out to vote – then it will be hard to roll back from it."
Caitlin Fitzpatrick, 16, from Balornock in Glasgow, regularly takes part in dance sessions run by A&M training, which provides free diversionary sporting activities for young people in the west of Scotland.
She said she will welcome the opportunity to have a say in the country's future.
"I think being able to vote in the referendum is a good idea, as that way you are getting a choice in what your country is doing," she said.
"I would definitely want Scotland to be independent because British and Scottish culture are two different things – we are a completely different culture and country altogether.
"I do think the country would be better – everything would be ours and we would be able to celebrate Scottishness and our Scottish culture rather than being British.
"The reality is we are Scottish and not British."
She added: "I also think there will be more jobs and I think the economy will benefit.
"Jobs are a massive worry at the moment.
"We will be leaving school around that time, so we might be the ones looking for jobs and hopefully lucky enough to get them."
THE VOICE OF YOUNG VOTERS
THE referendum will give people aged 16 and 17 in Scotland the right to vote on the country's future. But what do youngsters who vote in two years' time think of the current debate on independence? We asked teenagers in youth organisations across Scotland for their views. All planned to take the chance to have a say in 2014.
Ryan Miller, 15, from Clydebank, is undecided about which way he will vote when in the referendum.
He said he will be listening to the debate over the next two years to help make his decision.
Ryan, who is involved with the Tullochan Trust which helps young people in West Dunbartonshire, said: "I think it is good that people who are aged 16 will be given the chance to actually have their say.
"I've researched it and from the points that I have researched, a lot of people would say they would vote yes to an independent Scotland, because we would be better off and there would be more money.
"It would be a richer country and it would become the sixth-richest country in the whole OECD.But I also think we would need support from England if a crisis happened, so that is the downside of it.
"I do find the issue of independence interesting."
Beth Cullum, 14, is from Galashiels and an Explorer Scout. She said it would be good to have the opportunity to vote and have a say in what is happening to the country.
But she added: "I don't think we should become independent, as I think it is a bit of a hassle, because we have to change our passports and quite a lot of things.
"I am quite happy with it [Scotland as part of the UK] and it is easier as well. I think I am quite definite about it and I don't think I will change my mind."
She said politicians should be making more effort to engage with young people.
"They should be coming round schools and having talks with the young children and telling us about what is happening and get us more involved with it," she said.
"I don't really know much about politics, but if I had the opportunity I would like to get to know about it – if they came into schools and told us about it, I would be really interested."
Paul Friel, 14, from Clydebank, is involved with the Tullochan Trust, which helps improve the lives of young people in West Dunbartonshire.
He thinks he will back independence in two years time.
Paul said: "I have heard a bit about the independence referendum on the news and how they are going to let 16 and 17-year-olds vote in it, so I will be able to vote in it in two years time.
"I think I probably will vote in it, to help the country get better,
"I haven't given it a huge amount of thought, but I do think Scotland should be an independent country.
"I think it will be better off and there will be more jobs for us. I think independence will help the country."
Paul also said he believed politicians should try harder to engage with youngsters.
"They don't really talk to young people much, but if they tried a bit harder I'm sure it would be a lot better," he said.
Kieran Rorie, from Westhill in Aberdeenshire, 15, is in the Scouts' Explorer section, and is a young leader with the group.
"I just think it is too much of the unknown and economically it is a bit of a difficult time to say okay, we are going to break away from the United Kingdom," he said.
"For example, there are things about national debt and fiscal policy which would of course change under an independent Scotland.
"I hold a Scottish identity but I also hold a British identity and I don't really want to give it away right now.
"I don't think for the Scottish people independence would be the best thing."
Kieran said allowing 16-year-olds to vote would also bring a new dimension to politics.
"I have personally felt that politicians have lacked engagement with schools and for the first time ever, political issues could be coming into schools," he added.
"People are not necessarily informed at that young age and I think including 16 and 17-year-olds will encourage that to flourish, when it is just a kind of growing bud at the moment."
Alice Hargest, 15, from Edinburgh said she was looking forward to being able to vote – but is "pretty certain" she will not back independence in 2014.
An Explorer Scout and a young leader with the organisation, she said: "I don't think Scotland should be independent, mostly because of the financial climate at the moment.
"If I was getting a job and Scotland was going independent, that would be a really scary, because everything would be different and it would be different from what we are used to now."
She said one concern was that some people aged 16 and 17 might not take their opportunity to vote seriously and would not care "what box they ticked".
But Alice said: "The referendum gives us an opportunity to have our voices heard as young people across Scotland which is a really good thing.
"It is really important to know you are going to make a difference in your country and that you yourself can make a change.
"Sometimes I feel as politicians are kind of scared of talking to us as young people and finding out what we think.
"But we are not that different and we still have opinions that matter."
TT Masukume, 14, from Anderston, Glasgow, said: "I will vote but I don't think independence is a good idea.
TT, who takes part in dance sessions run by A&M Training, added: "You would lose jobs and there will be less money and benefits – I think you will lose quite a lot actually.
"I think England and Scotland both need each other.
"I don't think I will be changing my mind about it in two years' time."