Where Nairn goes, so goes Scotland. And it’s bad news for Alex Salmond because my old school, Nairn Academy, held a mock referendum on Scottish independence yesterday and the white smoke has just come out. They voted 71/28 to stay in the union with a 64 per cent turnout. This is more than a stunt from a Highland comprehensive: next year’s independence referendum is one in which 16 and 17 year olds will be voting so the opinion of Scottish school pupils matters.
When Salmond decided to extend the franchise in this way, he obviously assumed the young would be all on his side. Not much. This is the Facebook (or Instagram) generation: their world is digital and their horizons are global. The idea of putting a wall around Scotland, cutting the country off from England, is not so much abhorrent but just baffling to a generation who regard the world as their oyster.
A few months ago, Edinburgh University conducted a poll of the under-18s and this is what it found…
So the Nairn result is in line with that of Scottish youth. When I was growing up in Nairn, I didn’t hear anyone make an argument for separation and the idea of any unresolved tension with England was laughable. Things did change: the below graph shows the SNP share of the vote in my old home and what might be described as a Braveheart bubble:-
(1983-1992 Inverness, Nairn & Lochaber. 1997-2001 Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber. 2005- Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey)
The idea of having several identities was not something that troubled me, or any of my friends: I regarded myself as a Highlander, Scottish and British.