On the night of the EU referendum I was – along with thousands of students and young people across Scotland and the UK – heartbroken, disappointed, and upset for opportunities lost – and for the thousands of 16 and 17 year olds impacted but denied a vote.

While the disappointment at the result will never leave, I am hugely proud of how younger generations have responded. We’ve seen people mobilise, campaigning and marching in Glasgow, Edinburgh and other cities and towns across the country to send a clear message – Scotland is an open, welcoming country, and migrants are welcome here.

I’m incredibly proud to work for an organisation that represents Scotland’s half a million students, ensuring their views and those of other young people have been at the absolute heart of the debate. In the run-up to the referendum, we worked to put students’ views front and centre of the campaign to remain in the EU, as mandated by our members.

During the campaign we saw young people campaigning at all levels on all sides. NUS Scotland supported students’ associations the length and breadth of Scotland in voter registration drives, student engagement campaigns, and debates to put forward their perspective. We argued passionately that, as a generation of outward-looking, progressive internationalists, we believe that our future is best served as members of the European Union. That the freedom to live, study, work and travel freely, across Europe brings significant benefits to our country, both measurable and intangible.

The UK’s vote for Brexit does not represent our views. Scotland as a whole voted Remain – as did young people across the UK. Throughout the campaign, polling consistently showed an overwhelming majority of young voters were voting to Remain - and our own research highlighted three-quarters of 16 and 17-year-olds would have used their vote. This could have made a difference to the final result.

Allowing 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote in the Scottish independence referendum gave them a say in their future. It is a scandal that they were shut out of the most recent referendum, despite the severe impact this will have on everything from their human rights, to their freedom to study abroad.

For those of us who have campaigned and marched over these last few weeks as anxiety about our future outside the EU grows, the Scottish Government’s quick action to reassure EU students, and residents, studying in Scotland that they remain welcome here has been one glimmer of hope in an otherwise bleak time. EU citizens are our friends, neighbours, partners – and increasingly within the student movement they are us. A future without these people in Scotland is unimaginable.

The announcement last week that the Scottish Government will set up an advisory group to provide advice on Scotland’s relationship with the EU is also welcome, and NUS Scotland believes all options to stem the damaging consequences of Brexit should be urgently explored. As part of this, it will be vital to consider the impact on young people and students and I very much hope this will be high on the agenda.

What has become clear in the aftermath of the referendum is that the Leave side had no plan. Their campaign has disintegrated as key figures have abandoned ship. We have been led into this mess by them and must now navigate our way out.

And so young people and students are dealing with the bad hand they’ve been dealt. People are realising that the benefits and opportunities we so often take for granted are at risk of being lost, and now galvanising around the battle to limit the damage to our futures.

And who can blame them? Whatever comes next for Scotland, it is this generation of young people who will shoulder the responsibility of paying off a deficit they didn’t accrue, or directly benefit from. It is this generation of young people whose opportunities to easily live, to work, and love in other European countries are on the line. That is why it is more important than ever that young people are at the heart of the debate on Scotland’s future going forwards.

While the future of Scotland within the European Union, and even the UK, may be uncertain, it is now more than ever vital that young people are considered, included and indeed their futures prioritised.

Vonnie Sandlan is NUS Scotland President.