Scottish Parliament Votes To Allow 16 and 17-Year-Olds To Vote In Independence Referendum

Edinburgh, Scotland
Scottish Independence Referendum Reuters

The Scottish Parliament Thursday approved a bill lowering the voting age for next year's Scottish independence referendum to 16.

The bill had been widely criticized by all opposition parties when it was first introduced, with many claiming that the ruling Scottish National Party was taking advantage of youthful patriotism at the expense of life experience and general knowledge of the important issues. But when it came to the vote, the bill was supported by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, with only the Conservative Party (a small minority in Scotland) rejecting it.

Anyone born before September 1998 will be eligible to vote in the 2014 referendum.

The SNP’s long-standing drive to lower the voting age was backed by teachers' unions, student unions and the electoral reform society.

The United Kingdom government originally opposed the bill, but it was eventually agreed upon in the Edinburgh Agreement, which sets out the terms for the vote and gave the Scottish government the legal green light to pursue the referendum.

Upon announcing the bill before the vote in the Edinburgh parliament Thursday, the SNP deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said it was a historic day for the people who will decide the future of the country.

A more controversial bill that would have allowed short-sentence prisoners the right to vote failed, however. In addition,  citizens of Britain, the Commonwealth and the European Union may all vote provided they are resident in Scotland.

It has been said that Scottish Independence could have serious implications for the British economy and also on the "special relationship" between the United Kingdom and United States. If the country was to vote for independence, Scotland would immediately become an anti-nuclear state, forcing what’s left of the United Kingdom to move its main nuclear weapon storage facility, the U.S.-owned missile delivery system and submarine base out of Scotland, thus giving the UK problems in fulfilling its global nuclear commitments.  

The vote is due to take place Sept. 18, 2014.

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