Published: 13/06/2014 12:00 - Updated: 16/06/2014 16:43

First time voters to have their say

vote voting pictureMORAY’S 16- and 17-year-olds are preparing to offer an early indication of what they see as Scotland’s future.

A mock referendum is taking place in schools across the area on Wednesday, with the results due to be announced at Milne’s High School that evening.

Two days later, the area’s business sector and a number of specially invited pupils will listen as the UK chief secretary to the treasury, Danny Alexander MP, goes head to head with Stewart Hosie MP, deputy leader and chief whip of the SNP.

The Moray Chamber of Commerce debate, ‘90 Days to Decision Time’, is taking place in Elgin and will be chaired by broadcaster Gary Robertson.

In the lead-up to Wednesday’s mock poll, arranged by Moray Youth Council in partnership with the schools, pupils across the area have also been debating the pros and cons of independence.

Youth council chair Emmie Main, who will declare the individual school results as well as the Moray-wide result following the count, said youngsters are actively engaging with the independence debate.

Emmie (16) said: “I think the vote for 16- and 17-year-olds is a great thing. I think it is going to get lots more people interested in politics, and that is just great.

“People have been really engaged. A lot of research has been carried out for the debates, which have created a lot of discussion throughout the schools.

“I think the people who have made up their minds are pretty set, but there are a lot of people who haven’t decided yet, and they definitely want to find out more.”

Community learning and development worker Amy Cruickshank, whose team has been supporting the event, said: “The youth council is delighted that all nine schools are having a polling day next Wednesday. The count will be conducted at Milne’s High by youth council members, with staff support, from 3.20pm, and we are hoping for an announcement at 7pm.

“The majority of schools are letting pupils out of class to vote, and so we are expecting a high turn-out. Youth council members will be doing an evaluation during the day by talking to pupils and filming it, with pupils’ permission.”

The results will be published in next Friday’s edition of ‘The Northern Scot’, on the same day as two of country’s most senior politicians arrive in Elgin to debate the big issues of the referendum campaign.

Moray Chamber of Commerce president Alistair Simpson said: “With so many crucial questions for business, including the future of EU membership, the currency union, taxation and defence, this debate is one of the most important events ever organised by Moray Chamber of Commerce.

“This generation of voters is facing the biggest constitutional question of our time, and it is important that the public is given an opportunity to debate the issue fully, and hear direct from those who seek to shape our future. We are particularly pleased to be giving a voice to young first-time voters, as well as local business representatives.”

Host Gary Robertson said: “As politicians from both sides of the debate have said, this is the most important decision for 300 years.

“I am looking forward to a spirited debate from two of Scotland’s most experienced politicians.”

The event is being held on June 20 at the Alexander Graham Bell Centre at Moray College UHI.

Tickets priced £25 for chamber members and £30 for non-members will include a networking lunch and are available from Moray Chamber of Commerce at events@moraychamber.co.uk or by phoning 01343 543344. Registration begins at 10am for a 10.30am start.

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