Teenagers aged 16 to 17 will be among the ranks of Scots going to the polls this September to cast their ballots in their country’s independence referendum.
Thanks to a one-off lowering of the voting age – which normally stands at 18 – these adolescents will play a role in determining whether Scotland ends its centuries-old union with the rest of the United Kingdom. Reuters asked some of the youngsters how they will vote.
16 Mar 2014. Glasgow, United Kingdom. Reuters/Paul Hackett
School student Amy McKenzie Smith (pictured above) is not in favour of succession. She says there is no reason for Scotland to be independent and thinks ''everything could end up a mess''.
While McKenzie Smith is certainly not representative of all Scottish teens, she also doesn’t seem to be an outlier.
Dropping the voting age to 16 was lauded as a masterstroke in the Scottish nationalist battle for independence, but Reuters interviews with 25 teenagers in 10 different locations and two opinion polls suggest the Scottish National Party (SNP) may not be able to count on their vote.
6 Mar 2014. FRASERBURGH, United Kingdom. Reuters/Paul Hackett
Overall, polls show Scots remain doubtful about separation from the rest of the United Kingdom, though the proportion of those supporting independence has increased over the past year and many are still undecided.
The only major survey of young Scots, by researchers at Edinburgh University and financed by the state-funded Economic and Social Research Council in May last year, found 60 percent of 1,000 14-17 year olds opposed independence with 21 percent support.
A poll of 1,500 older students at Glasgow Caledonian University this year found 63 percent wanted to stay in the United Kingdom.
Sixteen-year-old Danny Hutcheson, pictured above, is among those who says he will be voting No.
"I'm unsure what would happen with a Yes vote," said the teenager from Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, who plays the bagpipes in a local pipe band.
11 Mar 2014. ISLAY, United Kingdom. Reuters/Paul Hackett
Nevertheless there are many Scottish teenagers who would like to see their country split from the rest of the UK.
Seventeen-year-old Ewan Aitken, shown posing for a photograph by a whisky distillery on the Scottish island of Islay, is one of them.
Aitken says he will vote Yes to independence because he feels Scotland sees 'nothing back' from resources like whisky.
Others in his age group said they are keen for independence because they see the advantage of oil-rich Scotland running its own policies rather than being directed by politicians from London, or they think independence will create more opportunities for young people.
9 Mar 2014. AULDEARN, United Kingdom. Reuters/Paul Hackett
Sixteen-year-old Hannah Campbell, whose family runs a farm at Auldearn in Inverness-shire in the Highlands, is in the opposite camp.
She fears an independent Scotland would lose its voice on the world stage and thinks the country stands to gain more out of the European Union if it stayed in the United Kingdom.
"I will vote No as I think that our country is fine the way it is and we don't need such dramatic change," she said.
Hers is one of many competing opinions. But the unionists and secessionists agree on one thing: with a large number of votes still undecided, a relatively small group of voters could still swing the election either way.