Independence? Young people, political engagement, and transitions to adulthood after the Scottish Independence Referendum

Against a backdrop of on-going debates on youth ‘apathy’ and alienation from politics, the enfranchisement of 16 and 17 year olds in the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum catalysed remarkably high levels of voter registration, and turnout, among this youngest group. We explore the character and sustainability of this engagement among a strategic sample of young ‘Yes’ voters, in the immediate aftermath of this exceptional political event. Qualitative interview data illustrates how these first-time voters experienced the referendum as inspiring and educational, and (re)connected to formal politics during and after the campaigns and vote. Most of all, participants narrated their political participation, and new active citizenship, as bound up with their transitions to adulthood and the development of an independent political identity. This enables us to begin to re-think young people’s political engagement in relation to both a broader conception of citizenship and their youth transitions.

Maddie Breeze (Queen Margaret University)
Hugo Gorringe (University of Edinburgh)
Lynn Jamieson (University of Edinburgh)
Michael Rosie (University of Edinburgh)

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