Inheriting Scotland

Danny Bartlett is a One Young World Ambassador from the UK. He is the founder of Hands up who's bored?, an initiative to promote political literacy in Britain's schools. 

Last year, I had the pleasure of attending the One Young World Summit in Johannesburg, which as well as being the largest gathering of nations next to the Olympic Games, brings together over 1,250 young leaders in an attempt to find youth-led solutions to some of the worlds more pressing issues. I found myself humbled by a collective consciousness of change making that filled me with hope that this generation has it in them to solve many of the world's problems.

Unity is one such millennial trait helping in this pursuit. The ease at which Generation Y overcome cultural and language barriers to solve problems - thanks in part to higher levels of connectivity, access to technology and increased travel - is in stark contrast to previous generations. With the Scottish referendum taking place on Thursday I wonder how this apparent trend amongst young people will impact the vote.

The Scottish referendum will be the first major ballot in the UK to allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote and over 100,000 have registered to do just that. Data from a recent survey suggests that some 57 per cent of young voters said they would vote no, while just 43 per cent said yes, giving Better Together a 14-point lead over their rivals.

In fact, ScotCen, a Scottish social research organisation, claim that such a low level of support for independence is 'remarkable'. It seems that rather than being more likely to support independence than the rest of the population, it appears that, if anything, young people are far less likely to do so.

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This research suggests that two factors are particularly important in influencing young people's views about independence. 

First is the lack of confidence young people feel about becoming independent. Young people across the world, including Scotland, have suffered immeasurably due to the economy, high rates of youth unemployment and a lack of opportunity. This so called 'lost generation', I fear, would resent their elders further if not for allowing them to contribute in determining the collective fate of a country they'll eventually grow up to inherit. They are also far less likely to vote inline with their parents - a common misconception among those who believe young people are largely apathetic towards the political process.

But however much independence troubles the youth of Scotland and the widening gap between them and adults, it's the second factor which takes precedent. Unlike older generations, the research suggests that young people in Scotland are more inclined to feel a strong sense of British identity.

Those aged 14-17 are less likely to have a strong sense of Scottish identity than those aged 18-24 or, indeed, adults in general. Only 12% of 14-17 year olds say that they are 'Scottish, not British', compared with no less than 35% of 18-24 year olds and 23% of adults as a whole. Although very few young people claim to be primarily or exclusively British, no less than 45% say they are equally British and Scottish, well above the equivalent figure for 18-24 year olds (22%) and that for all adults (30%).

The research suggests that this shared sense of identity may be a result of growing up in a digitised world in which interpersonal communication is no longer bound by geography. Indeed, this would fit the profile of a global millennial exhibited by the Global Millennial Survey (2013).

Millennials, the survey suggests, have been heavily influenced by access to technology, which has given them a passion to participate in solving challenges facing communities and the world. They also have a greater belief they can make a difference, are civically engaged, and feel more empowered to drive change through technology.

It seems that however Thursday's vote goes, Scottish millennials are comparable to their global counterparts in more ways than one and an obvious link seems to exist between access to technology and the age of the electorate in determining how one votes.

As a young person passionate about active citizenship, this really is a unique opportunity to see how a young demographic behaves in a major ballot. The question still remains: how will they sway the vote?

This piece was originally published on Danny's Huffington Post blog. Home page image source.