Scottish Independence Debate / Referendum: Young voters stand together

Independence? Not a good idea say (from left) Ross Stewart , Lauren Robinson, Natalie Moverley, Sally Sandison and Chloe Pan - Photo: Hans J Marter/ShetNews

IN our efforts to find out how Shetland folk feel about the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence, reporter Genevieve White paid a visit to the Anderson High School’s modern studies class and discovered a remarkably united front.

Perhaps Alex Salmond is hoping for the support of newly enfranchised devil-may-care young teens in September.

Recent polls suggest that young Scottish first time voters are indeed shifting towards a Yes vote.

Intrigued to see if this trend extended to Shetland, I visited the Anderson High School where the young people I spoke to were veering strongly towards the opposite.

A small group of fourth year modern studies students have chosen to research the Scottish referendum as part of their course work.

Sally Sandison, Lauren Robinson, Natalie Moverley, Ross Stewart and Chloe Pan were all keen to share their thoughts on the prospect of independence.

Despite the range of personalities, interests and aspirations within the group they seem to be united on one thing: an independent Scotland, as Lauren put it, is “not a good idea at all.”


The 15 year old, who hopes to become a flight attendant, considers the notion of Scottish independence “half hearted”.

“There’s so many questions that people are asking – but these won’t be able to be answered until, and if, Scotland becomes independent,” she said.

“I don’t think you should be able to vote for something which you’ve no idea about. You wouldn’t buy a house if you only had half an idea of what it was going to cost.”

Sixteen year old Chloe Pan has lived in Shetland for two years and sees herself as British Chinese “with a lot of Shetland thrown in”.

She hopes to study accountancy after leaving school and voiced concerns about the effect independence might have on the economy: “I don’t think Scotland could handle things all by itself.”

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She fears that independence would result in higher taxes and potentially spark civil unrest. “It might cause violence if people disagree with the referendum result.”

Natalie Moverley sees her future in Shetland, where she hopes to work as a primary teacher. Her concerns about Scottish independence centre on education and health care.

She may vote No because “if we get independence the government might not have enough money for free education and health care. In ten years’ time we might have to start paying for these things.”

Ross and Sally will be too young to vote in September (Sally’s birthday falls just three days after the referendum), but they share the same concerns as their peers.

Sally is planning a career in international law and sees independence as potentially divisive. “In this day and age, countries should become more united rather than splitting apart.”


Their research has challenged their pre-existing notions of what independence would mean for Scotland.

Ross admits to having changed his mind during the course of the project. “Before I started researching the topic I thought that Scotland would be able to handle independence, but now I don’t see how they could.”

The students believe that some of their peers may well end up voting on a romantic whim, and feel that young people in general should be better informed about the potential consequences of independence for Scotland.

Lauren envisages “a bunch of 16 year olds wanting to be independent because they think it’s cool”, when in fact they “don’t know what’s going on”.

Finn Gibson, a 16 year old modern studies student, is also “thinking no” at the moment.

“As far as I can tell most people are thinking they’ll wait until it’s closer before making up their minds and I think I’m with them.


“If I saw good arguments I could be persuaded to vote Yes, but at the moment I’m pro union – partly because Scotland’s well suited to what it has now and partly because the union’s a bit of a fall back if something goes wrong.”

Finn is all too aware of the problems that can befall newly independent small states.

“My Mum comes from Slovenia. She mentioned that when Slovenia became independent from Yugoslavia it was really good for many years afterwards.

“Now it’s one of the Eurozone countries on the blacklist. It’s a bit too small to be self-sufficient in a way.”

I wonder if the opinions of the students I have spoken to are representative of Shetland youth in general.


Finn thinks they might be. “Most people my age are voting no,” he claimed.

Teenagers are often accused of being politically apathetic, and yet it seems that young people are more engaged with the issues surrounding the referendum, than they are with politics in general.

Finn agrees. “Yes, I think they are less apathetic to the referendum than they are to general politics. They can see how it will affect their lives.”

What’s your view on the issue? We would like to hear from you. Please don’t hesitate to participate in the comment section below or get in touch directly via news@shetnews.co.uk 


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