Aberdeenshire to hold schools referendum on Scottish independence

Secondary pupils across Aberdeenshire will take to the polls a year before the national referendum on independence, as part of a major electoral participation project.

Aberdeenshire Council and Grampian Electoral Registration Office will be helping young people set up, contest, and hold their own polls on the issue of Scottish independence.

Pupils from Aberdeenshire secondary schools will learn all about the issues involved and all sides of the debate, before casting their own vote.

Many of them will be able to take part in the referendum on independence for Scotland proper when it takes place next year.

The results of the schools referendum will be returned a year to the day before the nation collectively goes to the polls.

The council’s Education, Learning and Leisure Committee earlier this year warmly welcomed the project.

Councillors heard the Council has previously conducted major schools elections, and the committee has given strong support for continuing the approach.

Of pupils who took part in schools elections in 2011, an impressive 76% said they had a better understanding of the importance of voting as a result, with 60% supportive of similar events before each major election, and 47% said they were more interested in politics and current affairs.

The schools referendum, co-ordinated by the council’s Electoral Participation Group, will take place this month on September 17 and 18.

It will be run in the same way as any real election or referendum, using specially printed ballot papers and electoral registers, but owned entirely by pupils.

The results will be announced a year to the day before the whole nation votes on the issue.

Aberdeenshire Council Chief Executive and Returning Officer Colin Mackenzie said: “This is an exciting project which mirrors what is happening at a national level and will give young people the chance to find out about what is happening, as well as an insight into how the referendum will be conducted.

“This is one of a number of council projects designed to increase electoral participation and get young people involved and interested in the democratic process.

“I am excited to see how young people in our schools approach this project and I hope they feel inspired to learn more and maybe even get involved in the democratic process themselves.”

Aberdeenshire Council’s Director of Education, Learning and Leisure, Maria Walker, said: “By staging elections activities within Aberdeenshire secondaries, we hope to encourage young people to recognise the importance of participation in terms of how they can make their own views count in a democracy.

“This is another strand in our ongoing programme to encourage participation in, and appreciation of, voting and democratic structures.”

Grampian’s Electoral Registration Officer, Ian Milton, welcomed the project as an exciting initiative and said it is an excellent introduction of democratic processes to young people.

“Just after the schools referendum, every household in Aberdeenshire will receive a special form for young people who will be 16 or 17 years old by the time of the national referendum in 2014,” said Mr Milton.

“Completion of the form will enable these young people to ensure that their vote is counted and their voice is heard in the national referendum on independence.”

Future electoral participation activities in Aberdeenshire include school based elections for the European Parliament in 2014, the UK Parliament in 2015, and the Scottish Parliament in 2016.

The results will be returned by Mr Mackenzie on September 18 at the count venue, Meldrum Academy.