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Watch: Our Scotland, our future

Published: 6 July 2022

What are young people in Scotland's views, hopes, and fears about Brexit and Scottish independence? We invited young people across Scotland to fill in a survey - here's what they had to say, including how they feel they can be included in discussions on constitutional change.

In 2014, 55% voted against independence in a referendum. In the 2016 Brexit referendum, 52% of voters across the UK – but just 38% in Scotland – voted for the UK to leave the European Union. Most young people today didn’t have a say in either of these referendums. Of those who did, surveys suggested that, across the UK, around three-quarters of those under the age of 25 voted for the UK to remain in the EU.    

It has been eight years since the Scottish independence referendum and six years since the Brexit referendum. Debates about Scotland’s place in the UK, and the UK’s place in Europe, are ongoing. Although most young people have not been party to these decisions, the outcomes can have a significant effect on their futures.  

Young people's thoughts and feelings - a survey

We wanted to bring young people together to discuss their thoughts and feelings about these developments. Covid made this difficult to do in person, so we instead invited young people to share their views with us via a survey. Fifty-nine young people from across Scotland did so.

Our survey was qualitative in nature and should not be considered to be a representative sample of young people. Rather, we wanted to give young people a platform to air their views, hopes and fears about Brexit and Scotland’s future. 

Who completed the survey?

Watch: Our Scotland, our future

What did they have to say about Scotland’s future? Watch our new animation:

Click the icon in the bottom right of the video to watch full screen, or watch on YouTube.

Confused, frustrated, annoyed: Young people and Brexit 

Young people overwhelmingly voted in favour of remaining in the EU, with polls showing that between 70% and 75% of under 25-year-olds voted Remain. Our respondents seemed to reflect this, and many expressed misgivings about the resulting Brexit process.  

When asked to provide three words to describe their feelings about Brexit, young people most often described Brexit as ‘unnecessary’ and ‘bad.’  

What three words best describe your feelings about Brexit?

Given these feelings, most respondents to our survey felt that there should be another opportunity to vote on the issue of EU membership. They noted that the result was not conclusive enough, that information was often misleading, and that ‘a lot has changed.’

On the other hand, some respondents argued that the result should be ‘respected’ and ‘accepted’ as a part of a democratic system. 

Confused, positive, excited: Young people and Scottish independence 

Polls during and after the 2014 Scottish independence referendum showed that support for independence among young people was markedly higher than among the older generation. However, those responding to our survey revealed a diverse range of feelings.

When asked to identify three words they associated with independence, many opted for positive words like ‘good’, ‘exciting’, or ‘positive’. But note, too, the prevalence of feelings of confusion. And a smaller proportion found the prospect to be ‘scary’, ‘unnecessary’ or ‘wrong’.  

What three words best describe your feelings about Scottish independence? 

Including, engaging, and listening to young people 

The 2014 independence referendum was a crucial moment for young people’s representation in Scotland with the introduction of ‘votes at 16’ leading to not only political enfranchisement but political engagement.  

Young people’s survey responses reveal clear spaces for including and engaging young people—schools, social media—but a frustration with the actual practice of inclusion and engagement.  

Here's what they suggested:

What next? 

Curious about the path to a referendum in Scotland? Watch our animation The path to an independence referendum

Read other posts on the Centre on Constitutional Change blog 

Listen to Constitutionally Sound, our podcast on constitutional politics in the UK and beyond 

Follow us on social media for more insight: Twitter @CCC_Research | Facebook @futureukscotland 

More information

This survey was part of a research project entitled, A Family of Nations? Brexit, Devolution and the Union, led by Nicola McEwen, Professor of Territorial Politics and Senior Fellow with the UK in a Changing Europe.

The Family of Nations research project is a senior fellowship with the UK in a Changing Europe, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Download text-only version of graphics

Our Scotland our future-text only.pdf (208.38 KB, application/pdf)

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