The National:

CLAIM: “I rather enjoyed it in the Scottish referendum when the SNP [granted the vote to 16-17 year olds] …  in the end many of those young people were independent and didn't actually vote for independence” – Baroness Claire Fox, BBC Question Time, March 25 2021


Current polling evidence shows that nearly four out of five young people in Scotland will vote for independence at the next referendum. Young Scots are overwhelmingly pro-European and don’t want to live in a Brext Britain.


Baroness Claire Fox began political life as a member of an ultra-left sect known as the Revolutionary Communist Party. She was an RCP leader for over 20 years and co-editor of its magazine Living Marxism. In the 2000s, Fox shifted dramatically to the right, embracing libertarian and Brexit views. She was elected as an MEP for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in 2019. She became a life peer in 2020, taking the title Baroness Fox of Buckley (in Wales). Buckley councillors immediately wrote to Boris Johnson “to express Buckley Town Council’s complete opposition to the above appointment”.


The Scottish independence referendum in 2014 was the first time in a UK poll that 16-17 year-olds were entitled to vote. Unfortunately, the precise voting pattern in the referendum of those in this age group is hard to determine, as there is limited polling evidence. From that point of view, the Baroness’ claim that they voted No is unsubstantiated.

Two major post-referendum studies were carried out, by YouGov and Tory peer Lord Ashcroft. Caution: both are limited by the very small number of young people polled as a subset of the wider study. The Ashcroft survey indicated that a clear majority of those aged 16–17 voted in favour of independence and by a strong margin (71% in favour). However, the Yes vote fell to less than half of those voting in the 18–24 cohort.

The National: Campaign material ahead of the Scottish independence referendum. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.

The YouGov poll used a larger overall sample than Ashcroft, so its sub-sample for younger voters is likely more reliable. However, YouGov lumps in the 16-17 group with the 18-24 respondents, so there could be a difference in voting between the two age cohorts, as Ashcroft finds. The YouGov study found that those aged 16–24 voted No by a small margin (51 per cent to 49 per cent). Note: This figure is well within the probable margin of error for small samples, so there could have been a majority for Yes.

Either way, the age group 16-24 was split more or less evenly on independence.  However, we should also note that polls conducted in the year before the independence referendum showed that 60% of the 16-24 year-group were in favour of a No vote. This suggests that there was a significant shift towards independence among younger voters in the run-up to polling day. This is buttressed by the fact that large numbers of young people joined in active campaigning for the Yes and Radical Independence campaigns in the run-up to the vote.

It is also true that – contrary to those who claimed the lowering of the voting age was a political stunt by the SNP Government – there was a palpable enthusiasm among young people to participate in the referendum process. A post-referendum study conducted by researchers from the LSE and Robert Gordon University found that turn-out among voters aged 16-17 was 75% – well above normal average UK turnout figures. Of those respondents who said they had joined a political party during the referendum, by far the largest group had entered the SNP.


If there was a majority among young people in favour of No in 2014 the reason is most probably to do with the very high support for staying in the EU. Polling by Edinburgh University academics in 2014 showed that only 5% of young Scots aged 14-17 wanted to leave the EU. Worry about an independent Scotland being excluded from EU membership seems the most likely reason for the high percentage of young folk voting No – a consequence of the Unionist Project Fear.

READ MORE: Holyrood election 2021: SNP on course for majority as Tories fall back, poll shows

Subsequently, Brexit has transformed the views of most young people in Scotland. This is somewhat ironical given Baroness Fox’s extreme pro-Brexit views. Recent polling shows there is now a considerable majority among young voters saying they support Scottish independence – far beyond any margin of error. Detailed polling by Ipsos Mori at the end of 2020 showed that 79% of 16-24 year-olds supported leaving the Union – a major change since 2014.  Baroness Fox is correct in this: the young voters of Scotland really do think for themselves.

FACTCHECK RATING: Not enough data for anyone to be certain how the majority of young people voted in 2014. But there is no doubt they support independence now.