Scottish independence: Meet the 16-year-olds who could change the referendum's outcome

On 18 September, they will turn 16 – and head straight to the polling station. As Scotland prepares to decide on its independence, the photographer Craig Easton toured his homeland to find out how the UK’s first under-18s to be given the vote are bearing up to the responsibility

It's quite the 16th birthday present: the chance to decide the future of your nation. Well, to have a say in it, at least. That's the situation a clutch of Scottish teenagers will find themselves in on 18 September, as the referendum on independence allows 16-year-olds to cast their vote on whether to stay within the United Kingdom or go it alone.

Although he no longer lives in Scotland, the Edinburgh-born photographer Craig Easton works in his native land a lot and feels the referendum is "potentially a major turning point in the history of not just Scotland and England, but the UK as a whole and the wider world too". While the debate rumbles on, he was struck by how, despite the bold decision being taken to give teenagers below the age of 18 the vote, no one was really asking for their opinions.

"Inevitably with these debates, the headlines are concerned with politicians, business leaders, celebrities and activists who strive to make their voices heard," he says. "It occurred to me that if we are asking 16- and 17-year-olds to vote, they should be given an opportunity to take part in the debate and have their opinions heard." And so he set about photographing and documenting the opinions of Scotland's newest voters.

Easton has no axe to grind; this project was determinedly not concerned with his opinion on independence (he won't even reveal his own stance for this article); it was about the next generation of Scots. And so, in order to give as random and unbiased a sample of teenage thoughts as possible, he hit on the idea of finding the very youngest, freshest of voters: those whose 16th birthdays fall on 18 September.

He went through councils and schools to track down his sweet 16s, because – bizarrely, given that these young people are being allowed a say in the potential break-up of the United Kingdom – they're unable to consent to being photographed. Easton had to obtain permission from parents and guardians first, "something that will bring a wry smile to many a documentary photographer", he drily observes.

 

Easton's images show the teens against backdrops that convey something of their life, personality or hobbies. "I wanted to know a little bit about each of them, their interests, their passions, where they hang out," he explains. "It then seemed obvious to include a reference to that in the picture. Sometimes it's the location we chose – school, bedroom or outdoors. Sometimes it was a hobby – bagpipes or ballet. I wanted these portraits to be an opportunity for each of them to present themselves and their opinions in their own way."

To that end, the project also includes each subject's handwritten notes, explaining their voting intentions and their thoughts about independence. From neat lines to scruffy scrawls and furious crossings-out, they hum with individuality. For Easton, it was a precious opportunity to present these young people's opinions entirely unmediated.

Their comments reveal, as you would expect, a wide range of opinions, ranging from a Yes vote because they see independence as offering a chance to establish a fairer society, to a No vote under an "if it ain't broke…" rationale.

Easton was heartened by his discussions with his subjects, finding them to be an engaged, thoughtful bunch. "There were one or two who expressed feeling a heavy weight of responsibility and that they didn't feel equipped to make such an important decision, but all of them are thinking very deeply about it and are very knowledgeable about the issues," he says.

"I think they are very conscious that it is their future that they are voting on, and I heard really impressive and coherent arguments put forward on both sides."

Some may argue that 16 is too young for responsible voting. We don't let 16-year-olds drink, drive, get a tattoo or even watch particularly gory movies, after all. But if there's one thing the project has proved to Easton, it is that Scottish youngsters deserve to have their say.

"It could be argued that the youngest voters have the most at stake, so their views are as valid and as important as everyone else's. It's their future, and it seems to me that they are at least as well informed as any of the adults I've spoken to."

For more: craigeaston.com

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm it was a 'minor disturbance' and no-one was arrested

News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf plays a World War II soldier in forthcoming drama Fury
films

Eccentric Fury star, 28, reveals he is 'not a really confident actor'

Life and Style
Time and Oak have developed a product that allows drinkers to customise the flavour and improve the quality of cheaper whiskey
food + drink

Sport
football

Peter Biaksangzuala died from his injuries in hospital on Sunday

Life and Style
The final 12 acts will be facing Simon Cowell, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Mel B and Louis Walsh tonight
fashion

The X Factor's judges colourful outfit was mocked by Simon Cowell

News
news

Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home

News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Senior Change Engineer (Windows, Linux, VMWare) - London £35k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past