Last September, Saffron Dickson, then 15 years old (now “16 and three-quarters”), attended a televised BBC debate in Glasgow on the subject of the upcoming Scottish referendum. Partway through the show, the host opened the floor to comments—and Dickson shot for the mike. Smiling saucily for the cameras, in bleached-blond hair and a dark leather jacket, she gave the people of Scotland an earful: “We don’t live in a country where we have equal rights,” she cried, raising a furious hand to the sky. “Westminster bakes the Empire Biscuit and we put the jelly tot on top. And we’re supposed to be completely ecstatic about having that little bit of power. But we won’t be silenced by your ideology!” Within weeks, Dickson had become “a wee bit” of a political celebrity in Scotland, which is now less than two months away from a historic referendum on independence from Britain. Today, Dickson is on the central board of Generation Yes, a large pro-independence youth movement, and a regular media fixture. Asked whether she hopes to run for office one day, she’s emphatic: “Yes!”
Dickson spoke recently with Maclean’s in the lobby of a swish hotel in central Glasgow, where she sometimes entertains journalists after school. Over the course of an hour, she spoke rapidly (and sometimes almost tearfully) about a range of issues: tuition fees, nuclear weapons, Palestine, Iraq, government “propaganda,” and the need to protect “our grandchildren’s futures.” But Dickson—who describes herself as “from a working-class background in a socially deprived area”—says she backs independence largely because she’s a socialist. On Sept. 18, the day of the vote, she will put her faith in the big-state promises of the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP).
Dickson is probably just the girl that SNP Leader Alex Salmond had in mind when he cut a controversial deal with British Prime Minister David Cameron to lower the referendum voting age from 18 to 16. The voting age for regular U.K. elections remains set at 18—and the Conservative government in London had initially resisted lowering it in Scotland for the referendum. Supporters of the move said it would be a win for democracy, but opponents made the arguments one might expect: that teenagers lack sufficient life experience to make complex political choices, and that the referendum was not the time to test out new electoral systems.
Full Article: Scotland to allow 16-year-olds to vote on independence.