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What Scotland's young voters think of indyref

When Scotland's SNP government dropped the voting age to 16 for this year's referendum, it was widely seen as banking on teenage radicalism to ensure a break with the UK.

Saffron Dickson, 16, is photographed in Glasgow city centre. Read how she and 21 other young people in Scotland will vote in the referendum below
Saffron Dickson, 16, is photographed in Glasgow city centre. Read how she and 21 other young people in Scotland will vote in the referendum below

If so, it may have miscalculated. Two opinion polls and interviews by Reuters news agency staff with 25 Scottish teenagers in 10 different locations suggest the Yes camp can't be sure of their support on September 18.

Few polls have asked 16 and 17-year-olds how they plan to use their one-off chance to vote in the referendum. Overall, polls show Scots remain doubtful about separation, although the proportion of those supporting independence has increased over the past year. Many are still undecided.

In a survey of 1000 young Scots last May, researchers from Edinburgh University found 60% of the 14- to 17-year olds opposed independence, with 21% in support.

A poll of 1500 older students at Glasgow Caledonian University this year found 63% wanted to stay in the UK.

Of 25 teenagers questioned by Reuters, 13 planned to vote "No" to independence, nine "Yes", and the rest were undecided.

While this straw poll cannot give anything like a full picture of youth views, they do underline that neither side can take Scotland's teenagers for granted.

Political scientist Mark Shephard of Strathclyde University, who has been conducting a social media project on Scottish independence, said this was a common concern among teenagers.

"The possibility of market uncertainty over what is going to happen just at the time students are contemplating the job market during a period of prolonged economic difficulties is influencing them," he said.

Figures from the National Records of Scotland this month show that, whatever they decide, teenagers are keen to vote.

More than 98,000 aged 16 or 17 are already registered for September - about 80% of that age group, making up about 3% of the four million voters.

Read thoughts on independence taken from interviews with 22 young people below:

All images: Paul Hackett

Scottish country dancer Mairie McGillivray, 16, dances on the beach at Bridgend as she poses for a photograph on the Hebridean island of Islay. Mairie will vote yes and said, ''I believe that Scotland isn't governed by democratic means due to our lack of representation in Westminster and that we would be better off as an independent nation, both culturally and financially.''

Piper Danny Hutcheson, 16, is photographed on the coastline of Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire. Danny will vote no at the referendum because he is unsure what would happen with a yes vote.

Ewan Aitken, 17, poses for a photograph close to the Laphroaig whisky distillery on the Hebridean island of Islay. Ewan, who works for Caledonian MacBrayne ferries, says he will vote yes because he feels Scotland sees ''nothing back'' from the resources like whisky.

Hannah Campbell, 16, sits in the barn of her family's farm in Auldearn, Invernesshire. Hannah will be voting no and said, ''I will vote no as I think that our country is fine the way it is and we don't need such dramatic change.''  

School student Laura McKenzie, 16, photographed with Craigmillar Castle in the background, Edinburgh. Laura is voting no at the referendum and said, ''I don't see any benefits to it and I don't think that Scotland needs that big a change.''

Amy McKenzie Smith, who will be 16 when she votes, is photographed on the banks of the River Clyde with Finnieston Crane in the background, Glasgow. Amy is a school student and will vote to stay in the union. She says there is no reason to be independent and thinks ''everything could end up a mess''.

Sean Sutherland, 16, is photographed on a building site in Oban, Argyll and Bute. Sean, who is on a working rights scheme, said he will vote no and believes Scotland will be better off as part of the union.

Megan McKay, 16, from Macduff, poses for a photograph on the Aberdeenshire coastline. Megan is voting yes and said, ''I think it will provide better opportunities for young people including students, also I feel that it will provide Scotland with better opportunities and will become a wealthier nation.''

Ailsa Nairn, 16, active in the yes campaign, is photographed in Hawick. She said, ''I am voting yes as I think it is the best option for Scotland and it's something I have always wanted.''

Zeth Clarkson, 16, originally from Cumbria, is photographed in Hawick. Zeth will vote yes and said, ''I think Scotland will cope better with the economy on their own.''

Ninian Gibson, 16, is photographed at Duddingston Loch in Edinburgh. Ninian will vote no at the referendum. She said, ''Though I think Scotland should have full control over its own affairs I think that the UK is an important force in the world that it should be kept united.''

Liam Collins, 16, is currently looking for work or further education possibilities, and he is photographed in Edinburgh. Liam will vote yes and said ''I will vote yes because I believe it will give Scotland a better chance and more jobs for young people. I talk about this mainly with my Dad and he is voting no."

 

Leanne Wharton, 16, is photographed in Hawick. Leanne said she will vote yes as she thinks an independent Scotland will have more freedom.

Kieran Green, 16, poses for a photograph on a playing field in Edinburgh. Kieren is undecided at the moment and said, ''I am not 100 percent convinced by the yes or no campaigns and as to what will be better for the future of my country. You will have to look hard to find someone more patriotic than me, and when it all came about a few years ago I was all for independence. But growing up and maturing has made me re think. My heart says yes, but my head says no."

Simon Fraser, 16, is photographed on the island of Easdale, Argyll and Bute. Simon will vote yes in the referendum ''because of the opportunities it will give in the future.'' He says he talks with his friends about the referendum and they have very mixed views on the subject.

Saffron Dickson, 16, is photographed in Glasgow city centre. Saffron, who is active in the Radical Independence Campaign, said, ''It's crazy not to have self determination. We need complete control over everything. It's the only way the Scottish people can make decisions for themselves and not by an out-of-touch government.''

Lachlan Eggo, 16, from Dumfries, southwest Scotland, poses for a photograph in the border town of Gretna Green. Lachlan is undecided which way he will vote and is still going to do research into the issue. He said it isn't really a topic of conversation amongst his friends at school.

Yasmin Gray (L), 16, and Leonie Matthews (who will be 16 at the time of the vote) pose for a photograph getting ready to go to a friend's 16th birthday party, Nairn, Invernesshire. Yasmin is still undecided and said, ''I have heard different opinions from family members and the news. I am 60 percent yes because I think it will benefit our economy and there would be less tax in an independent Scotland. However, the 40 percent is no because I believe that Scotland being independent will affect our future generations as most of our money comes from oil - it will eventually run out and this will leave Scotland inevitably bust. ''Leonie, who is voting no, said, ''England needs Scotland and Scotland needs England for both countries to function properly.''

School student Jack Capener, 16, is photographed on Calton hill in Edinburgh. Jack said he will vote no because of ''concerns over currency, as I think that it is unlikely that Scotland will get either the pound or the euro, and lack of faith in Alex Salmond's plans.''

School student Katie Cocozza is photographed at her friend's house in Linlithgow. Katie will be 16 when she votes in September and is voting no at the moment. She says, ''There is a lack of engagement within my year group and we haven't seen much campaign material from each of the political parties explaining their position and the effects it would have specifically for my generation.''

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