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Better Together ignores the youth vote to its cost

Survey reveals majority of 16-18-year-olds fear for the economic future of an independent Scotland, despite strong sense of national identity

By Ted Simpson

With only four months to go, a survey from Carrington Dean shows that the majority of 16-18-year-olds fear for the economic future of an independent Scotland – a growing concern which has benefited the union cause, as indicated by the latest national ICM poll. But it would be dangerous to write off the Yes campaign quite yet; despite their economic concerns, the strong sense of national identity felt by Scotland’s teens is palpable. What’s more, the Yes Scotland youth campaigners are wasting no time in trying to turn this gut feeling into real support.

As a student at the University of Edinburgh, I come into contact with the independence debate almost daily, and the positivity and openness of young Yes campaigners present a stark contrast to advocates of the union. “Yes” posters and stickers are plastered across the campus, yet the blue Better Together logo is notably absent. This in a city regarded as a union stronghold. The strong presence of the Yes campaign across social media – 20,000 more followers than Better Together on Twitter if that’s anything to go by – only encourages these young supporters of independence to keep sharing their cause, loud and proud.

Their positive campaigning is surprisingly effective. I recently attended a Yes campaign rally for 16-18-year-olds in Glasgow. With a 50 strong army, they amassed at the Donald Dewar statue at the top of Buchanan Street, and clutching signs, badges and matching t-shirts they loudly descended one of the busiest streets in Glasgow, supplying the population with leaflets and forceful conversation alike. “Generation Yes” seemed a force of nature, made up of willing teens fully engaged in issues that affect them; when asked, they presented a wide range of arguments as to why, come September, they were choosing Yes.

I was struck by how powerful an effect rallies such as this could have on the 16-18-year-old demographic. The enthusiasm, positivity and drive I witnessed in Glasgow was fuelled as much by rational argument as nationalist sentiment. By comparison, Better Together is almost nowhere to be seen. When I travelled out to Leith to visit an event orchestrated by Better Together’s youth campaign, I was greeted with a sorry sight. Half-deflated blue balloons flapped metaphorically on the railings next to where the campaigners stood, behind a bare rickety table. Turnout could have been counted on one hand.

Perhaps such lack-lustre groundwork is a consequence of the pro-unionists’ campaign hubris; or perhaps they’re just indifferent to a demographic that represents only three per cent of the total electorate. Either way, this confidence relies on teenagers’ sustained fears regarding Scotland’s economic capability. It is backed up by the Young Person’s Survey of 2013, which showed only 26 per cent of 16-18-year-olds to have confidence in an independent Scotland, dwarfed by the 47 per cent who expressed doubts.

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