Generation Yes: The youth group gunning for independence
This 23-year-old Cambridge grad is telling 16-year-olds how to vote for Scottish Independence
Student politicians are a bore at the best of times, but now they’re actually needed.
The Scottish Referendum has re-energised the disillusioned youth vote, especially now that 16-year-olds have been enfranchised.
Generation Yes is the grassroots youth group of the Yes Scotland campaign, built for first-time voters and youth activists.
Their spokesman is Graeme Sneddon, a Cambridge graduate who has worked for the Yes campaign since July, and even quit his Plant Biology PhD at Glasgow to devote himself as a full-time volunteer: he does not get paid.
23-year-old Graeme has been working to engage the youth vote this Thursday and to make them aware of what’s at stake.
But with 16-24-year-olds generally backing the Union, has the SNP’s gambit to grant the vote to 16-year-olds failed to pay off?
Graeme said: “No, I don’t think it was a gambit, I don’t think it was designed to win over hearts and minds of 16 and 17-year-olds.
“We are just working hard on the ground, I think it’s fair to say the Yes side has always been a bit of an underdog in this campaign, but as we’ve got closer to the poll, we’ve seen the gap narrowing massively.
“When we’ve gone into schools and engaged with people, they’ve moved over to Yes.”
Aside from currency, education is the key issue that affects young people. And one of the SNP’s key policy pledges is free higher education.
They say in their White Paper, titled ‘Scotland’s Future’ (or, if you’re voting No, the greatest work of fiction since vows of fidelity were included in the French marriage service) that fees from England and Wales will be used to subsidise Scots’ free education.
Except that would be illegal. If Scotland joins the EU as it wants to, they won’t be allowed to charge fees to people from the rest of the UK under EU law. The Scottish Government says they have access to ‘legal advice’ that says they won’t have to.
When asked about this, Graeme said he had no access to the ‘legal advice’ the SNP is talking about, and said he could not comment on it directly.
But he did admit he had some concerns over fee refugees.
Talking about whether Scottish students would end up paying fees, he said: “I think the Scottish Government will work hard to protect free fees for Scottish students. I’m sure they will find some mechanism for their plans.
“I can really help you anymore on that, since this is more a Scottish Government pledge.”
When this is over, Graeme is starting an MA in Political Communications at Glasgow after giving up on his Plant Biology PhD.
He expects a Yes vote on Thursday but acknowledges that if Scotland votes Yes, the negotiation period after would have a lot of unknowns.
With the vote only a couple of days away, Graeme and his team are out on the ground canvassing hard.
With youth speakers and street activists, they represent a part of Scotland’s future. Whether that’s the right part will be resolved on Thursday.