The interim findings of a multi-disciplinary research project, involving academics at the Universities of St Andrews, Newcastle and Edinburgh, show two-thirds of young Scots interviewed intend to vote No in the forthcoming independence referendum.
This study is unique in that it largely concentrates on the views of minority ethnic young Scots, though the views of white young Scots have also been included.
Focus groups, involving 259 young people aged 14 – 20 years across Glasgow, Edinburgh and Fife, found that the majority of young people interviewed were fiercely proud of being Scottish, and considered being patriotic compatible with voting No. Issues including the economy, currency, membership of Europe and a concern that the debate is being led by emotions rather than pragmatic politics have led two-thirds of the young people researcher spoke to, and who are eligible to vote, to vote No.
For at least two thirds of those eligible to vote, the primary reason for voting no is a fear that an independent Scotland would not be economically viable or sustainable.
There are also concerns that divisions between Scottish and English national identities could intensify in the event of a Yes vote. One respondent (male, English, Muslim, senior school pupil) who now living in Scotland feels that the divisions at present about Scotland and England could intensify:
“You know it’s, it’s bad enough already that you know we’re qualified as English and Scottish they, they’re not the same…If you divide the two…and let’s just say you want go for a visit to Scotland if you’re English, that’s just gonna make your life even worse…at the end of the day we’re all human beings, right? I personally believe it’s not where you’re from that matters it’s, it’s the type of person you are.”
Others, such as those from Eastern European backgrounds, had lived through separation; or had relatives who remembered the partition of India and Pakistan. These young people told researchers about the concerns their families had that separation would not bring the gains hoped for, but instead might generate division and negativity.
Some interviewees feared that independence would limit their opportunities to work in England with the prospect of additional border immigration controls. Some respondents that felt these concerns would make an independent Scotland less attractive to immigrants as people who migrate are looking for greater opportunities for movement and employment.
The participants intending to vote No did, however, understand why others might choose to vote Yes; identifying greater control over issues such as trident as a benefit.
Young people did talk about feeling politically isolated from Westminster and favoured greater devolution as a useful way forward.
Those who said they would be voting Yes felt the people of Scotland should believe in themselves. A Scottish Indian (female, Hindu, senior school pupil) said:
“It kind of makes sense to have people who live in the country like have more of a say”.
Some young people also expressed the view that independence had the potential to deliver a fairer and more democratic society. A Scottish Indian (Sikh, female, university student) respondent commented that:
“I think if we have a government that is directly accountable to us and actually has the power to do things then it might improve the situation here a bit more in terms of poverty and stuff”.
Others felt that higher education in Scotland would benefit from independence as Scotland could controls issues such as immigration.
The study concludes that young first-time voters are thoughtful and insightful, and their comments and concerns mirror those of the wider community. They are interested in politics and the majority intend to engage in the process and cast their vote. Regardless of how they will vote, young people feel positive about the future for Scotland.
Notes to News Editors
This research is part of a study exploring the everyday geopolitics of young people from diverse ethnic backgrounds growing up in Scotland. The team uses the term ‘everyday geopolitics’ to refer to the ways in which international, national, state and local political issues shape, and are shaped by, people’s everyday lives in different contexts.
The majority of interviews took place over the period January to July 2014.
The team is led by Professor Peter Hopkins, Newcastle University, in collaboration with Dr Rowena Arshad, University of Edinburgh, and Dr Gurchathen Sanghera, University of St Andrews. Dr Kate Botterill, University of Newcastle, is the full-time Research Fellow on the project.
For a draft copy of the interim report contact the University of St Andrews Press Office on 01334 462 167 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the overall project ‘Young people’s everyday geopolitics in Scotland’ visit https://research.ncl.ac.uk/youngpeople/.Research