A big decision for Falkirk’s first-time voters

First time voter Lauren Munro from Braes High School
First time voter Lauren Munro from Braes High School

September 18 will see thousands of teenage first time voters make their mark on one of the most important issues in Scotland’s history.

The Scottish Independence Referendum is just a fortnight away and for the country’s 16 and 17-year-olds it is a massive responsibility that will seem a daunting task for some or an unprecedented opportunity to get their opinion across for others.

The bill to give 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote on September 18 was passed by MSPs at Holyrood in June last year.

The legislation, which was backed by the SNP, Labour and Liberal Democrats, gives those born on or before September 18, 1998 the right to vote in the forthcoming referendum.

Fifth year Braes High School pupil Lauren Munro of Maddiston is one of those first-time voters, having turned 16 in June.

She spent a summer week on work experience with The Falkirk Herald and agreed to give us an insight into her pre-referendum thoughts.

At this point Lauren is certain how she is going to vote, but The Falkirk Herald was asked by her school - acting on instructions from Falkirk Council - not to reveal whether she will put her cross against a “yes” or a “no”.

This restriction is just one example of the knock on effects one simple referendum question can have.

Lauren said: “I’m definitely set in my mind how I’m voting and I don’t think there is much that can change my mind now it’s so close to the vote.”

While others may be influenced by the views of parents or friends, Lauren has looked at information being offered up by news reports, television debates and other sources to form her own opinion.

“I don’t think my parents’ views effect me in most things. My family is open minded politically, but I’m much more of a think for myself type of person.

“I do have a mix of friends, but it’s true most of them are leaning towards one particular side. To people who don’t share my views I just say it’s my opinion, I respect yours, you should respect mine.

“I only really have one friend who doesn’t share the same views I do and we’ve got to the point where we say you believe this and I believe that, but let’s not go into it any more.

“Some of my friends have their views and don’t mind the backlash that could happen when they share them with others.”

Like most young voters, the potentially life-changing magnitude of the September 18 referendum is not lost on Lauren.

She said: “I’m aware of how important this vote is for the country and for all of us - it’s hard not to be, seeing it on the news every time you turn on the television.

“I do feel pretty good I’m getting to have my say in this and my view is going to be taken into account.”

Part of a clued up generation who do not tend to take things at face value, Lauren does not get caught up in modern politics’ high profile personality clashes.

“Watching the television debates you eventually tune out because everyone seems to be saying the same thing. The last one had Darling and Salmond just screaming at each other.

“I’ve never been interested in politics and don’t tend to take politicians’ personalities into account.”

Politicians, on the other hand, will have to take into account Lauren and the thousands of first time voters like her in the hours and days after 10 p.m. on September 18.