Sweet 16 – and Voting

On Thursday, September 18, registered voters in Scotland will go to the polls to settle a fight that’s been raging on and off for more than 500 years. And 16 year olds could be key players in a binding referendum decision on whether Scotland leaves the United Kingdom and once again, this time peacefully, becomes a nation in its own right.
There was a little bloodshed after Queen Elizabeth 1 died a childless virgin and troublesome claimants to be her hereditary successor had to be removed from contention. When that “cleansing” was finished King James VI of Scotland was proclaimed King James the First of England. Until that day – March 24, 1603 – Scotland and England had been separate states with their own parliaments, their own laws. James had been King of Scotland since July of 1567 – crowned when he was little more than a baby. He was in his Thirties when he got his second Crown and brought single royal jurisdiction to the now United Kingdom of England and Northern Ireland and Scotland.
It wasn’t the easiest of time for James who almost immediately took up residence in London, closed the Scottish parliament, transferred 20 or so members to London’s parliament, plus a few Lords and friends of the Court. James 1 is the King who was supposed to be visiting Parliament in London on the day Guy Fawkes and half a dozen other Catholics had scheduled “The Gun Powder Plot” attempt to assassinate a protestant King and his Parliament in one act of violence.
Long before that dramatic attempt to reclaim Scotland’s independence, two full scale wars had been fought between Scotland and England, the first started in 1296 and ended 1328. Both ended with “peace” treaties and Scotland retaining its independence. One battle in the first conflict is still remembered in today’s Scottish national anthem “O flower of Scotland when will we see/ your like again/That fought and died for/Your wee bit hill and glen/ And stood against him/Proud Edward’s army/ And sent him homeward/ Tae think again.”
Needless to say, Scotland had won the Battle of Bannockburn fought in June, 1314 with Robert Bruce leading an outnumbered army of Scots against the then King Edward’s invaders. They were not so victorious two hundred years later – that’s right, 200 years later – when in September, 1513, led by King James the Fourth of Scotland they clashed with England on the fields of Flodden and lost 10,000 men. The English lost 1,500. While it marked Scotland’s greatest defeat in battle it was just one of many as over the centuries English Kings; the “Great Protector” Oliver Cromwell, then more Kings, fought and defeated the Scots until they agreed to the always uneasy union of the 1700’s. Scotland retained its identity but felt it was still just a minor partner in the United Kingdom.
Following WW1 the stirrings for clear independence began again. A national Party of Scotland was formed and eventually became today’s Scottish National Party. In 1967 one Winnie Ewing won a by-election – a first seat for the Nationalists. Three years later in 1979 Harold Wilsons’ Labour Government offered Scottish voters a referendum on “devolution” – a first step toward independence. It won majority support but failed to meet a requirement of at least 40% of the vote.
Labour lost the next election. Scotland would have to wait until 1997 when Labour’s Tony Blair occupied No. 10 Downing Street and offered new devolution proposals and Scotland won the right to have its own parliament with tax raising powers.
In 2011 the SNP won a clear majority in Scotland’s general election. September’s referendum is the keeping of a promise with an unexpected twist. The vote next month will be open to all registered Scottish voters from the age of 16. And 15-year year olds can pre-register if their birthday falls on or before voting day.

Canadians aware of national murmurings about reducing voting age from 18 to 16, and always conscious of the many Quebec citizens who favour independence, will be watching Scotland’s response with interest – as should the rest of the free world.

Will the 16 year olds be the defining factor on an issue of such great importance? And should they be – in Scotland, in Canada, or anywhere else?
On Thursday, September 18, registered voters in Scotland will go to the polls to settle a fight that’s been raging on and off for more than 500 years. And 16 year olds could be key players in a binding referendum decision on whether Scotland leaves the United Kingdom and once again, this time peacefully, becomes a nation in its own right.
There was a little bloodshed after Queen Elizabeth 1 died a childless virgin and troublesome claimants to be her hereditary successor had to be removed from contention. When that “cleansing” was finished King James VI of Scotland was proclaimed King James the First of England. Until that day – March 24, 1603 – Scotland and England had been separate states with their own parliaments, their own laws. James had been King of Scotland since July of 1567 – crowned when he was little more than a baby. He was in his Thirties when he got his second Crown and brought single royal jurisdiction to the now United Kingdom of England and Northern Ireland and Scotland.
It wasn’t the easiest of time for James who almost immediately took up residence in London, closed the Scottish parliament, transferred 20 or so members to London’s parliament, plus a few Lords and friends of the Court. James 1 is the King who was supposed to be visiting Parliament in London on the day Guy Fawkes and half a dozen other Catholics had scheduled “The Gun Powder Plot” attempt to assassinate a protestant King and his Parliament in one act of violence.
Long before that dramatic attempt to reclaim Scotland’s independence, two full scale wars had been fought between Scotland and England, the first started in 1296 and ended 1328. Both ended with “peace” treaties and Scotland retaining its independence. One battle in the first conflict is still remembered in today’s Scottish national anthem “O flower of Scotland when will we see/ your like again/That fought and died for/Your wee bit hill and glen/ And stood against him/Proud Edward’s army/ And sent him homeward/ Tae think again.”
Needless to say, Scotland had won the Battle of Bannockburn fought in June, 1314 with Robert Bruce leading an outnumbered army of Scots against the then King Edward’s invaders. They were not so victorious two hundred years later – that’s right, 200 years later – when in September, 1513, led by King James the Fourth of Scotland they clashed with England on the fields of Flodden and lost 10,000 men. The English lost 1,500. While it marked Scotland’s greatest defeat in battle it was just one of many as over the centuries English Kings; the “Great Protector” Oliver Cromwell, then more Kings, fought and defeated the Scots until they agreed to the always uneasy union of the 1700’s. Scotland retained its identity but felt it was still just a minor partner in the United Kingdom.
Following WW1 the stirrings for clear independence began again. A national Party of Scotland was formed and eventually became today’s Scottish National Party. In 1967 one Winnie Ewing won a by-election – a first seat for the Nationalists. Three years later in 1979 Harold Wilsons’ Labour Government offered Scottish voters a referendum on “devolution” – a first step toward independence. It won majority support but failed to meet a requirement of at least 40% of the vote.
Labour lost the next election. Scotland would have to wait until 1997 when Labour’s Tony Blair occupied No. 10 Downing Street and offered new devolution proposals and Scotland won the right to have its own parliament with tax raising powers.
In 2011 the SNP won a clear majority in Scotland’s general election. September’s referendum is the keeping of a promise with an unexpected twist. The vote next month will be open to all registered Scottish voters from the age of 16. And 15-year year olds can pre-register if their birthday falls on or before voting day.

Canadians aware of national murmurings about reducing voting age from 18 to 16, and always conscious of the many Quebec citizens who favour independence, will be watching Scotland’s response with interest – as should the rest of the free world.

Will the 16 year olds be the defining factor on an issue of such great importance? And should they be – in Scotland, in Canada, or anywhere else?

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