WHAT is happening to our youngsters?

Are they all Brits together cheering enthusiastically for Olympic Gold medallist Andy Murray as he seeks to win the men's singles in SW19, or is the generation of crippling youth unemployment, debt and poor housing beginning to diverge north and south of the Border?

The "wha's like us" argument about all being Jock Tamson's bairns can be cloying, tedious and, frankly, dubious as we slap each other on the back, celebrate how egalitarian we all are, raise a glass to the Brussels bureaucracy we all love, and vote for tax rises we love to pay for our auld puir folk.

The evidence on willingness to pay more taxes does not stack up. During John Swinney's leadership of the SNP the gambit of a "Penny for Scotland" did not work out and as Finance Secretary in recent years his claim to fame has been enforcing a freeze on the council tax – hardly a model of progressive taxation in action.

Across all ages it is undeniable that Scots voters are to the left of their counterparts in the south of England, with the Tories constantly vying with the LibDems in the battle for third and fourth place, while two social democratic parties separated only by their constitutional stance routinely mop up almost two-thirds of the vote.

But we assume consistency across the age spectrum at our peril, it seems, as some highly counter-intuitive polling results from south of the Border indicate. For a start, Ipsos Mori has been charting the differences in views over the last four generations: those born pre-Second World War; Baby Boomers who came of age in the 1960s; Generation X, the generation which suffered under the Thatcher depression but came through; and Generation Y, the youngsters currently facing austerity.

There is a particular graph where those from Generation Y, who are suffering most from the economic chaos, express their political preference. It shows a downward graph for three of the parties, but with support rising for the UK Government.

The polling shows 69% of those in Generation Y agree public services should be funded through the tax system compared to 83% of those in Generation X and 81% of Baby Boomers. It falls again to 70% among the pre-war generation. Younger generations are less likely to agree that taxes should be raised for people with the highest income and wealth – 70% Generation Y, 75% Generation X, 79% Baby Boomers, 80% pre-war.

Support for the Tories is said to have doubled among first-time voters since David Cameron came to power.

There was also YouGov evidence that the Conservatives were 31-27 points ahead of Labour among young voters at a time when Labour held a 40-29 lead among those aged over 40. This evidence suggests hard times in Britain have resulted in hard hearts, there is a generation out there who are losing their belief in the notion of a welfare state and feel they are forced to buy into a new era where we look after ourselves, not each other.

So those bearing the brunt of the UK Government policies on jobs, education and housing have suddenly begun voting Conservative? Does that sound like Scotland to you? I thought not, but you never know. If our elders so order society that they accumulate benefits of free education and property fortunes, while their sons and daughters suffer, why would the young not resist?

The older generation has made their sons and daughters accumulate debt for their university degrees, has overseen a failure to provide the jobs that were meant to be the fruits of that higher education, has make it impossible for them to get on the housing ladder, and then forced them into a cynical Labour market which leaves them in low pay – if any pay at all given work placements – which result in them being unable to make their own way in the world.

That this UK generation appears to have doubled its support for the Tories since Mr Cameron came to power seems inexplicable. Surely they would blame the First Minister for their abysmal fate? Instead, they appear to have bought into Mr Cameron's initial youthful appeal and his message about where the wrongs lie for society's failings – the previous Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Above all, the social attitudes suggest a generation forced to be tougher on each other, hardened of heart. For those of us who treasure the notion of the welfare state this attitude is inexplicable, but from the perspective of a generation who see that same social contract unravelling it is easier to understand.

But to go back to the first question, are our youngsters diverging from their southern cousins? In truth it is difficult to tell because the same polling evidence has not been carried out here. In particular there is a lack of equivalent polling about Westminster voting intentions.

That does not mean there aren't valid questions to be asked about our youngsters. They cannot be immune to the same consumerist pressures that have forced their southern cousins down an anti-welfare route. Young adults in work in Glasgow are just as likely, in theory, to feel as sceptical about welfare claimants as their counterparts in London.

We have an impression that our young people are more social, more supportive, more accepting of their less fortunate fellow citizens. It's a comforting thought. But we have little evidence for it. Today's young Scots have been born into a tough world so it should be no surprise that they err on the side of caution when it comes to the constitutional debate.

Virtually all available evidence says young Scots remain either sceptical or fearful about independence. There is a whole database of the stuff at a new website whatscotlandthinks.org which will reward a good browse by anyone interested.

The problem is what's not there. Because of the polling cycle experts tend to ask the next big question. What would be fascinating to know would be a question about Westminster voting intentions to check where our sons and daughters stand in relation to their southern cousins in terms of backing for Mr Cameron. I have my theories, but no evidence.

What we do have is much evidence of the recorded views of our young adults on the referendum, a series of polls by different companies which show No in the lead, but not by as much as is often portrayed, given the level of don't knows. Younger people have been more hostile to independence than might have been expected, given the SNP's determination to give the vote to 16-year-olds.

Pro-Union politicians are fond of anecdotal evidence from school hustings where they assure us teenagers are solidly against independence. Perhaps. The Yes campaign has claimed a substantial shift in its own canvassed returns of late, showing a shift among first-time and women voters.

Even one prominent Unionist pundit, no stranger to overkill himself, has expressed concern that the No campaign is over-reaching itself with implausible scares on the minutiae of British life.

That might work for an older generation already inclined towards a No vote. Is there a danger Generation Y will listen to its big brothers and sisters in Generation X and make a collective decision to dismiss these scares?