AT the 2014 independence referendum, 16 and 17-year-olds were given the opportunity to vote for the first time. The impact the move had was well-documented – young people were attending debates, rallies and generally involved in politics in an unprecedented way.

Many of the powerful, emblematic photographs taken in the run up to and immediately after the referendum captured the passion felt by those young people, who relished the chance to have a say on their own futures. Overall, 100,000 people in that 17-18 age bracket voted on September 18, 2014, and, according to a Lord Ashcroft poll, 71% of them voted for Scotland to leave the United Kingdom.

Pupils in fourth, fifth and sixth year – and some in third year – around Scotland were no longer talking about voting and political procedure through the lens of Modern Studies textbooks. They took the debate into the classrooms, playgrounds and lunch halls. Five years have passed. For those aged between 11 and 15 during the referendum, the question of Yes or No is no longer a hypothetical.

This group of new voters is made up of hundreds of thousands of young people who grew up engaged as they watched the independence referendum unfold.

READ MORE: Hugh MacDonald: The SNP was like a family gathering – united by independence

In 2016, many of those same people saw the Brexit vote take place, again unable to have their say as their older peers returned to the ballot boxes.

Robyn’s grandmother was involved in politics as an SNP member. “When I was maybe seven or eight I remember going with my granny every year to help set up the SNP Burns supper,” she says. “To put the wee Scotland flags on the table and hang the bunting and put the lights up.”

By the time of the referendum, her grandmother was still involved in handing out pro-independence leaflets in the local area. Robyn, who had become interested in the case for Yes after doing a Modern Studies project on independence, used the opportunity to try some activism in her own way.

She explains: “I was reading the leaflets in the house and I was taking them and leaving them on the train to school once I got off, and leaving them on the seat on the bus, so the next person would come and read it and maybe educate themselves on what it was trying to say.”

READ MORE: Extract: This is how Scotland’s media stole the referendum

After the referendum, Robyn’s interest in politics continued. “I watched all the TV debates at the 2015 General Election, obviously Nicola Sturgeon became leader of the SNP, and for a young girl seeing a woman in that position, it’s inspiring,” she says.

That prompted her to do work experience at the Scottish Parliament, then join the SNP. Now 17, Robyn is the national organiser for Young Scots for Independence (YSI) – the youth wing of the SNP. Earlier this year, she and fellow YSI member Erin Jarvis put together a resolution calling for a school leavers’ tool kit which would prepare young people for the kind of challenges they don’t learn about at school. The pair presented the work at conference – it passed. 

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