Independence: Students want college polling booths

Students want polling booths in college and university campuses. Picture: David Moir
Students want polling booths in college and university campuses. Picture: David Moir
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Scottish student leaders are calling for polling booths to be set up in college and university campuses for Scotland’s independence referendum next year.

• Voting in independence poll is “once in a lifetime opportunity”.

• NUS wants it to be as easy as possible for students to have their say.

The National Union of Students (NUS) said that having places to vote in both colleges and universities across Scotland would make it as “easy as possible” for students to “take part in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.

NUS Scotland director Robin Parker will appear before MSPs scrutinising new legislation that will, if passed, allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the referendum.

In a written submission ahead of this morning’s meeting of Holyrood’s Referendum Bill Committee, NUS Scotland said it “supports the unbiased promotion of referendum participation in schools and colleges”.

It added: “As part of this effort, we would also like to see polling places opened on college and university campuses, in order that as many students as possible will find it as easy as possible to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Voting rights

On Tuesday the Scottish Government formally lodged proposals to lower the voting age to 16 in the independence referendum.

The Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Bill sets out the franchise for the ballot, due to take place in autumn 2014.

In its submission, NUS Scotland also said giving 16 and 17-year-olds the opportunity to take part in they ballot was “a significant step towards achieving voting rights” for this age group in all UK elections.

It added: “We strongly hold the view that 16 and 17-year-olds today are ready to engage and participate in both the referendum and democracy in full.”

But the student organisation called for “comprehensive efforts” to be made to educate young people about how to register to vote and “ensure they have the information and tools needed to take part in this historic vote with an unprecedented franchise”.