Classroom Practice - Young people give independence vote of no confidence

6th December 2013 at 00:00
Just one in five aged 14-17 plans to say `yes' in referendum

Young scots allowed to vote for the first time in next year's referendum are less likely than any other age group to support Scottish independence, research by the University of Edinburgh has shown.

A new briefing reports that just over one in five 14- to 17-year-olds say they will vote "yes". This compares with previous studies showing 18- to 24-year-olds to be the age group most supportive of independence, with nearly a third supporting it.

"Young people are more likely to have a reasonably strong sense of British identity and more likely to be worried about the practical consequences of independence," the report's author, Jan Eichhorn writes.

The lecturer at Edinburgh's School of Social and Political Science told TESS: "It is interesting to see that the proportion identifying as solely Scottish and not British is much smaller among the 14- to 17-year-olds compared to the 18- to 24-year-olds."

The briefing, entitled "Will 16- and 17-year-olds make a difference in the referendum?", is based on the first-ever large-scale survey of the younger age group and their attitudes towards the referendum, published earlier this year by a team from the University of Edinburgh.

This referendum will be the first time that 16- and 17-year-olds will be able to take part in a national vote.

The Edinburgh academics - together with colleagues at the University of Strathclyde and ScotCen Social Research - are today launching a set of teaching resources to help students analyse campaign materials and polls relating to the vote.

The resources include analysis of the results of opinion surveys of both 14- to 17-year-olds and adults, and instruction on how to obtain and assess information online.

Researchers say that the materials can be used across a range of subject areas but may be particularly useful in modern studies classes working towards Nationals 4 and 5, Highers and Advanced Highers.

"Every week, different media outlets present a great range of polling and survey figures - and also vox pop interviews with people in the street - about the attitudes of people towards political issues, in particular the referendum," Dr Eichhorn said. "It is not always easy to understand these results and to interpret them accurately."

Kate Bulloch, a modern studies teacher at Knox Academy in Haddington, East Lothian, piloted the resources with her students. She said: "My students enjoyed using them as it provided them with new material and helped them to express more informed opinions."

The publication of the resources comes just over a week after the release of a Scottish government white paper on the country's future.

According to the paper, an independent Scotland would oversee a "transformation in childcare provision". Higher education would remain free, and ongoing high investment in university research would "enable our researchers and universities to remain internationally competitive".

The paper also states that the guarantee of a place in education, training or work for every young person could be written into the constitution of an independent Scotland.

In response, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman Liam McArthur said: "Ambitious action on childcare doesn't need new powers or resources.

"Scottish Liberal Democrats have consistently argued that the SNP should follow the lead of the coalition government in delivering free early learning and childcare for 40 per cent of two-year-olds from the poorest backgrounds."

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont added: "We know the first minister has a budget of more than pound;30 billion and we stand ready to work with him to act on improved childcare now rather than after the referendum."

To see the resources, go to

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