Fraser Nelson Fraser Nelson

Scotland’s mature teenagers make the case for all voting to start age 16

I went back to my old school last week, Nairn Academy, taking my family to my native Highlands for half-term. I learned two things: that the gorgeous northeast of Scotland is one of the best places in Europe to go with young kids, knocking the spots of any of the overseas venues where I stupidly tried to holiday before*.

The second, more important lesson is that the pupils of Nairn Academy are not just ferociously bright but thought-leaders to boot. A few months ago, they rejected independence in a referendum – and a survey out today shows that two-thirds of the 16- and 17-year olds able to vote in September intend to do likewise.

As I say in my Telegraph column today, it does actually matters what school pupils think. I was speaking to them about journalism and politics – and I avoiding speaking for or against the union. Highlands & Islands Council rightly does not want the schools to become places where pupils are lobbied, but the pupils don’t need adults to stimulate political discussion. They are holding debates, and even mock referenda. Nairn Academy’s own vote showed 71 per cent in favour of staying in the union.

This isn’t to do with any lack of patriotism, but Scots with their futures ahead of them like the idea of being plugged into a network like the UK – with all of its opportunities. One pupil at Nairn told me she was concerned about English employers being that bit less likely to employ Scots, should they proclaim themselves foreign. (I personally don’t think that would be a problem, but I can see why she’d have concerns). Another told me he wanted to go to London, and didn’t specify a career. A fine ambition – and one hear in schools from Cardiff to Gateshead.

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