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
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
filmReview: Gyllenhaal, in one of his finest performances, is funny, engaging and sinister all at once
Arts and Entertainment
Shelley Duvall stars in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
filmCritic Kaleem Aftab picks his favourites for Halloween
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington has been given a huge pay rise to extend his contract as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
tv
Life and Style
Taste the difference: Nell Frizzell tucks into a fry-up in Jesse's cafe in east London
food + drinkHow a bike accident left one woman living in a distorted world in which spices smell of old socks and muesli tastes like pork fat
Sport
Luke Shaw’s performance in the derby will be key to how his Manchester United side get on
footballBeating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Life and Style
Google's doodle celebrating Halloween 2014
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
filmThis Halloween, we ask what makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?
News
peopleFarage challenges 'liberally biased' comedians to 'call him a narcissist'
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

Senior IP Opportunity at Major Firm

vary Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - AN OPENING AT A VERY HIGH Q...

Nursery Manager

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes