The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), which represents 80 per cent of the country’s teachers and lecturers, said extending the franchise would help make teenagers “active citizens”, one of the key principles of Curriculum for Excellence.
Larry Flanagan, the union’s general secretary, said: “The EIS believes that 16 and 17-year-olds should have the vote in the referendum on Scotland’s future, which is their future.
“Extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds will help to foster active citizenship by giving young people a greater say in the decisions that will affect them now and in the future.
“Encouraging pupils to be responsible citizens and effective contributors are two of the key principles of Curriculum for Excellence, and there are few better ways of encouraging these capacities than by extending the right to vote and enabling young people to play a full part in the democratic process.”
The EIS said it had been a long-standing supporter of devolution, but was not telling its members how to vote in the independence referendum. It said the right of all 16 and 17-year-olds to vote should be extended to all future elections.
Mr Flanagan added: “At the age of 16, young people can secure employment, pay taxes and get married. They can join the armed forces. It is wholly appropriate that they should also have the right to vote on the decisions that affect them, and to have a fair say in who is elected to represent them.
“The EIS does not have a policy position regarding the referendum itself, other than to support the principle of the Scottish people being able to vote for the option they favour. It remains to be seen what platforms will emerge in the course of the debate.”