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Generation gap emerges over Scotland independence vote

Signs in an Edinburgh building’s windows reflect the nearly even divide on Scottish independence among voters. Russell Cheyne/Reuters

GLASGOW — A generation gap has opened up over Scotland’s independence referendum on Thursday, with younger voters more inclined to back independence and their elders tending to say they want to remain in the United Kingdom.

Support for the status quo is strongest among the over-60s, who are worried about the consequences breaking free would have on pensions, health care, and savings; the pro-independence movement is largely being driven by under-40s.

Neck and neck in the polls, the rival campaigns have called on core supporters to make a last-ditch attempt to swing the vote by making the debate a family affair.


The young are being urged to visit parents and grandparents to explain why they should support separation. The no camp has launched a counteroffensive by asking seniors to win young hearts and minds with their wisdom.

‘‘I was so proud of my grandpa when he told me he was voting yes that I burst into tears,’’ said Miriam Brett, 23, from Shetland and a campaigner for Generation Yes. ‘‘A yes vote means so much to my generation. We want to let all our grandparents know that their future is secure in our hands, and with a Yes we can build a better future for ourselves and for our children.’’

The No camp is trailing in every age group except the over-60s. Polls indicate more than 63 percent of that age group is expected to vote in favor of the union. As older people are more likely to be on the electoral roll, there has been a huge drive to get younger people engaged in the Yes campaign.

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain on Monday used his final speech to Scots before Thursday’s vote to warn that the secession would not be a trial separation.

“There’s no going back from this, no rerun,” Cameron told supporters in the northeastern city of Aberdeen. “If Scotland votes yes, the UK will split, and we will go our separate ways forever.”


Interest in the referendum is sky high. A total of 4.29 million Scottish residents, representing 97 percent of the voting age population, has registered to vote in the referendum.

That’s an increase of 300,000 on those registered in Scotland in 2012.

The turnout for the referendum could exceed 85 percent, compared with just 50.4 percent who voted in the last Scottish Parliament elections in 2011, and the 63.8 percent who turned out for the 2010 UK election.

Among the electorate are 124,000 voters aged 16 and 17 who have been granted the right to vote for the first time. Many of these new voters are expected to support independence.

But conventional wisdom holds that older voters are more likely to actually cast their ballots, a factor that could help the Better Together campaign.