Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
After the independence referendum, the resigned First Minister Alex Salmond said on Sky’s Murnaghan programme said Scotland had “a situation where the majority of a country up to the age of 55 is already voting for independence”, adding:
I think Scots of my generation and above should really be looking at themselves in the mirror and wonder if we by majority, as a result of our decision, have actually impeded progress for the next generation which is something no generation should do.
Mr Salmond is obliquely referring the post-referendum Ashcroft poll, which showed age categories younger than 55 years backing Scottish independence. It is worth noting that polling subsamples will have wider margins of error than the overall poll, which surveyed 2,047 people. Such polls will not be proportionate to the referendum’s actual turnout, which is unknown. In Ashcroft’s poll, 79% of 16-17 year olds voting Yes for Scottish independence was calculated from a sample of just 14 voters.
YouGov’s survey of 3,183 Scots did not use the same age demarcations: only one age band – voters between 25 and 39 years – backed Yes in a majority. A smaller Ipsos MORI poll placed the divide at 35 years, where the young supported independence and the elders sought the United Kingdom’s persistence.
If the Ashcroft poll is assumed to be accurate, it contradicts Alex Salmond’s earlier claim: the No campaign “scared” elderly voters. All age categories selected “the risks of becoming independent looked too great” as the most important reason for voting against separatism, but these risks affected younger voters in greater proportions than older citizens.
Mr Salmond places immovable confidence in a single poll to suggest intransigence amongst older unionists. Prior to the decisive loss, Mr Salmond described the referendum result as “the sovereign will of the people of Scotland”, but now derides and chastises older voters for impeding “progress”. Democratic debates are the process by which differing desires – conservatism with progressivism, vitality with experience, freedom with control – are reconciled.
With post-referendum movements such as ‘The 45’ and ‘Rallies for a Revote’, the plebiscite did not divide the United Kingdom, but it may have separated Scots. As Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, said:
I understand that is how many are feeling who voted for Independence. Hurt, grief, loss. But that pain is not healed by people crying foul and that grief is not ministered to by talk of a conspiracy.