Mobilisation through early activation and school engagement – the story from Scotland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This paper explores the experience of 16–17 year olds participating in the Scottish independence referendum and discusses whether it can be seen as positive or negative considering civic attitudes and participation. Using data from two comprehensive and representative surveys of 14–17 year olds, it engages empirically with claims about young people's alleged political (dis-)interest and provides qualifications for commonly believed stories of young people as mere recipients of information given to them by parents and teachers.

The paper develops a positive view of young people's engagement in the referendum process and suggests that inputs from parents and schools actually have distinguishable effects on young people, who do not simply ‘follow the lead’ of others uncritically. The analyses suggest that the discussion of political issues in the classroom (rather than the simple delivery of civics-style classes per se) may act as a positive factor in the political socialisation of young people, but suggests that further research is required to examine these effects beyond the specific context of the Scottish independence referendum in particular in relation to questions about whether reducing the voting age to 16 could be expected to generally lead to positive outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1095-1110
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Youth Studies
Issue number8
Early online date15 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • political participation
  • youth engagement
  • civic education
  • Scottish referendum
  • voting age


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